The recent spate of complaints regarding park facilities along the Boardwalk put a spotlight on the measures taken by Mayor Nancy Rossi and her administration regarding the city’s financial crisis.
Just this week, the bathroom facilities along the beach were fitted with time locks to allow for use when city personnel are off duty, particularly Sundays and holidays.
The focus on the Boardwalk, though, has led many to believe that is the only facility affected by the changes. A recent inquiry by a Voice reader concerning the use of facilities at the Painter Park Grove showed that Sunday use is affected in all city parks.
According to the mayor, while all parks have regular hours throughout the weekend, the cutbacks in overtime and other expenses do affect use on Sundays.
“There have been budget reductions in all departments across the city, including the Parks and Recreation Office, but those cuts will not affect park hours or the reservations and permitting of public areas,” Ross said. “The parks and public areas will be open all summer.”
The inquiries concerning Painter Park came from a family that has used the pavilioned area for family reunions for several years. Bathrooms and grill facilities were curtailed on Sundays, and they wondered if that was part of the city’s austerity program. Rossi explained.
“City facilities are available and bathrooms are open with the exception of Sundays where the city would have to incur overtime (double time) to open and maintain,” she said. “There are ‘porta-potty’ units in most public areas that are cleaned several times per week and are available to residents during public hours.”
She said that, while the city is curtailing overtime on Sundays, all parks remain open and those requiring permits are available.
“All the parks will be open throughout the summer and available for residents to enjoy,” she said.
Rossi said overtime costs are a non-starter under the current austerity plan, but that shouldn’t affect the way the city maintains and manicures its parks.
“We will maintain our parks and beach front with our current parks and recreation and maintenance staff members and without incurring overtime costs,” she said.
There is one exception to the overtime rule – private scheduling and private payment, according to Rossi.
“We are not approving overtime unless there is an emergency situation or if the cost is being reimbursed from a private event organizer,” she said.
While the new reality might be inconvenient to some, the mayor believes most city residents understand the financial pressures the municipality is undergoing, and the steps necessary to alleviate the problem.
“Our residents understand that the city is in a very difficult financial situation and we are making difficult and unpopular decisions to ensure that we stay within our appropriated budget. We are working hard to stay within our budget and make sure that our parks and public areas are open and well maintained for our residents to enjoy. I know some of the decisions and budget reductions we have made are not popular with some — but they are necessary,” she said finally.
Meanwhile, the city has installed locks that make the Boardwalk bathhouse accessible on Sundays and holidays.
The timer-controlled locks for the bathrooms in Old Grove Park have been installed, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced last week.
Rossi said the bathrooms, which front the Savin Rock beach walk, are open — since Saturday — from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The new locks, installed June 26, can be locked or unlocked via a smartphone app and eliminate the need — and the cost of overtime — for city workers to unlock or lock the bathrooms on weekends.
Rossi said that the $2,210 cost to buy and install the locks is coming out of the mayor’s office budget, but that several residents and businesses have expressed interest in reimbursing the city for the cost.