New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Feature News

Budget Cuts Golf Course, Fireworks

In a March 14 letter from Bill DeMaio, director of parks and recreation to department heads, it said cuts in the present Board of Finance & Taxation (BOFT) budget could affect a large number of City events. Some events which could be cut include Walnut Hill concerts, the Race In The Park, Nutmeg Games, CIAC events, CCSU events, the 4th of July  fireworks, the Memorial Day Parade and the Rock Cats. It could also cause the demise of the Stanley Golf Course.

A 2013-14 budget plan was approved by the BOFT Monday night at $244.7 million. It cut close to $14 million of the originally submitted department head spending requests.

Among parks and recreation cuts was the part time salary department request of $159,720.  The BOFT cut it by $59,720.

“This recommended cut will result in the hiring of fewer seasonal employees which will then result in athletic fields not being groomed and lined, litter not picked up, grass not mowed or trimmed, graffiti not removed, vandalism not being repaired or parks being closed,” according to the letter by DeMaio.

Cuts in overtime would not allow for full-time and part time employees to work special events or anything over the standard work week.  These would include: 4th of July Fireworks, Memorial Day Parade, Walnut Hill Concert series, special events at Willow Brook Park and more.

But perhaps the biggest effect would take place at Stanley Golf Course.

“If the golf course reduces the number of starters and rangers the result will be slow play, golfers sneaking onto the course from non-rangered areas, longer waiting lines, and a significant reduction in greens fee revenue and golf cart revenue,” said DeMaio in the letter. “The greens are mowed daily and pin placements are moved daily, on weekends and on holidays.  Reducing the overtime budget and having less part time maintenance workers will mean greens will not get mowed or pins moved over half the weekend or holiday.  The golfers will be paying premium rates on weekends and holidays for less than premium conditions and the result will be less golfers playing on weekends and holidays.”

The city would save $85,165 at the golf course for this change.

“The gem of the city will begin the spiral of less play, less revenue and more cuts until it can no longer sustain itself,” said DeMaio. “If Costco begins construction during this budget period, there will be no way for golf course employees to keep up with course maintenance and construction with less workers and more responsibilities which will quicken the demise of the golf course as we know it.”

Other cuts include $2,000 less in dues and membership which eliminates educational training such as first aid, CPR, line clearing tree trimming certification, custom grounds pesticide certification, OSHA safety training and education for cross training would be eliminated.

Cuts in forestry will lead to the “department not being able to respond to emergencies such as hurricanes, snow storms, thunderstorms or other weather related issues.  This would mean that roads may be blocked off and emergencies not dealt with outside of regular Monday through Friday work hours.  This would result in severe hazardous conditions and a large public safety issue.”

Full time salaries in park maintenance was $921,605. The BOFT recommended a cut of $120,576.  The recommended cut will result in the department not being able to replace 3 groundskeepers. The Parks Division has lost 5 groundskeepers in the last 2 years due to retirement.

“The current level of staffing is not enough to support all the demands that are put upon the division.  There were 34 full time positions in March of 2010, there are currently 21 full time positions with 1 retirement scheduled for April 2013,” said the letter.

DeMaio could not be reached for comment on his letter and the mayor’s office refused comment.

The Mayor still has the ability to add or subtract funds from the parks and recreation department budget before passing it on to the Council for approval