New Senior Program advisory board formed

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission appointed four citizen members Monday night to its new Senior Program advisory board in the latest step in its year-long effort to reorganize the program.
The idea of reorganizing the Senior Center started in January 2017, when a subcommittee was formed to evaluate the program. The subcommittee, with two commissioners sitting as voting members, approved and recommended many changes, including the decision to lay off the manager. The recommendations was upheld by the commission in August.
A number of Senior Center patrons protested the changes. They formed a group called “Support Our Seniors” and launched a recall campaign against three parks commissioners, collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The recall, which costs roughly $24,000, failed in March.
In response to the wave of opposition in October, the parks commission formed a separate ad hoc committee, chaired by now-City Councilor Jackie Bachman and made up off local and regional experts, community members, parks commissioners and a City Councilor. The committee produced a list of 34 recommendations to overhaul many aspects of the program — including its personnel level and its overseeing body.
The Senior Program advisory board will work with staff and report directly to the commission, according to the newly-approved definition of the board. Parks opened an one-month application period soliciting citizens to apply to serve on the committee in March.
Four applied. Mary Russell-Miller, a professor at Southern Oregon University, and Robert Casserly, a project manager of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, both served on the ad hoc committee. Parks also received applications from Senior Center participants Michael Hersh and Saundra Theis.
“I would like to thank you all the applicants to be willing to work with us in improving the Senior Program,” said Michael Black, Parks director.
Commissioner Rick Landt echoed the sentiment, saying the applicants are all qualified.
“I don’t have any hesitation going forward with this,” Landt said.
Staff recommended the commission have two of the applicants serve shorter terms to avoid having to replace all four members at the same time. The parks commission agreed to have Russell-Miller and Hersh serve three-year terms, while Theis and Casserly serve two-year terms.
All members are allowed to serve up to six continuous years, according to city’s ordinance.
Commissioner Mike Gardiner also volunteered to serve on the board. He was on the initial subcommittee, as well as the ad hoc committee in October.
Black said he will also ask the mayor to appoint a councilor to serve on the board.
Appointed members will serve immediately, according to staff. Black said the board will be consulted in hiring a superintendent for the program — a new position recommended by the ad hoc committee.
According to Black, the parks department received 48 applications from all over the nation by the time the application deadline passed on April 16. The position is advertised with an hourly wage up to $44.90 ($93,650 annually).
“(Human Resources) is reviewing all the basics of the applications,” Black said.
The parks commission also received a report on the Oak Knoll Golf Course at the meeting, which included an update on maintenance at the facility — a significant challenge identified in the division’s current biennium budget.
Course manager Tom Cronin said the program is seeking to optimize its functionality through maintenance and new initiatives, including a program called “Junior Gold” to encourage the younger demographic out to the course.
“We can get kids out there and let them play along moms and dads,” Cronin said. “It’s something we will be implementing very soon.”
The program is also running a survey on its clubhouse and producing new marketing materials to promote the course on social media, Cronin said. The course is also a popular choice for local nonprofits to host fundraising events, staff said.
According to the city’s budget, Oak Knoll Golf Course has collected roughly $600,000 in fees every biennium since 2015, while its expenditures continue to hover at $1.1 million every biennium over the same period of time.
Parks dedicated $70,000 this biennium to an irrigation project at the course, but the budget pointed out more maintenance projects will be needed in upcoming years.
Staff also gave an end-of-the-season report on the ice rink, which attracted around 21,300 visitors from November through February.
The facility was closed down several times during the season due to warm weather, staff said. Both revenues and expenses increased this season — parks collected $118,800 in revenues, compared to $115,000 from last year.
Expenditures also increased to cover the one-time cost of setting up a new trailer donated by Ashland Rotary, bringing the budget from $18,800 last year to $24,400 this year.
—Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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