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Not just child’s play

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist
SOLON– Solon has grown, and now the city government is thinking it might be time to do the same thing.
Solon’s city council and mayor have recently been discussing a possible new city hall, but last week, their attention turned to the potential expansion of recreational programs.
During a regular session last Wednesday (June 1) a joint session was held between the city council and the Solon Parks and Recreation Commission to discuss future staffing and programs.
The meeting was an outgrowth of a proposal made in May to replace a full-time public works position with a merged public works/recreation coordinator.
City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott, Public Works Director Scott Kleppe and City Clerk Susie Siddell suggested the restructuring of the position, first considered by council members at a May 18 meeting.
The general idea as proposed was to create a position which would be responsible for maintenance and mowing of park facilities (with additional general snow removal duties in winter) as well as overseeing and developing recreation programs throughout the year.
“Right now, my staff, they’re sent out to mow, and that’s what they do,” Kleppe said in May. “If we had a person in this position, I envision them having a vested interest with all the park facilities.”
The city, he said, has grown to the point that it should be paying more attention to other types of programs.
“This town has two wonderful facilities– the Fox Ridge trail and prairie and wetland, and then our nature and rec(reation) area,” he continued. “Right now, we have been so involved with the sport aspect that the nature and recreation area brings, but we’ve never, ever promoted the nature part of that.”
Council members were generally supportive, with the understanding that public works duties would always take precedence. Both Cami Rasmussen and Steve Stange indicated the full-time position was initially created for the public works department, and if the split position didn’t end up with adequate time for both jobs, it would come at the expense of the recreation end.
But the public works department would be allowed to supplement seasonally with part-time help, and Kleppe seemed to think that would be adequate.
The proposed job description and other related issues were discussed further last week at the joint session between the council and the parks commission.
Lippincott and Kleppe reiterated their thoughts for parks and recreation commission members Shannon Smith, Ellen Wise and Jen Fischer.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, Lippincott noted, will be finding a candidate with the right mix of interests for the position.
“I’m open to the idea,” Wise said. “I see some positives for it.” But she also had some reservations. There is also recreational programming in the winter, and she wondered how the city departments would deal with the sharing. “Does the city really have the staff to cover both areas during some type of peak time?” she asked.
Mayor Rick Jedlicka said while the position would be utilized during the winter for snow removal, it was understood the primary priority for the employee would be as an activities director.
“I do think we need to be expanding our recreation programs,” Wise said. “We’re mainly focused on youth sports and we’re not really hitting the whole population of our community.” Wise said she would like to see programs other than sports created for all ages.
That paralleled the thoughts of city staff, who had brainstormed a list of potential programs, including those for adults and seniors, expanded youth programs, coordination with the Solon Fitness Club and parks expansion.
Also mentioned during the meeting were yoga classes, fishing derbies, community gardens and trail development.
But those are long-term goals for the parks and recreation commission to develop over time.
The short-term goal is to begin advertising the position, which the city will do. While the position will fall under the hierarchy of the public works department, the parks and recreation commission will also have authority to provide direction, Lippincott said, and a member of the commission will be invited to participate in the interview process.