Parks board seeks new blood

By Meg Olson

Following Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District board chair Mark Robbins’ decision to not run for reelection this fall, fellow commissioners are considering how they will fill his over-sized shoes.

“Mark [Robbins] has expanded the shoe size of the role to where none of us want to take it on,” said Linda Hughes at the January 12 Mark-Robbinsboard meeting, at which Robbins was absent.

The district hires staff only for cleaning and secretarial services, and to run the summer program. Other duties, from unplugging toilets to coordinating improvements to the community center, fall to the commissioners, who are elected and unpaid. The chair has traditionally shouldered most of the burden.

“If I were to put my name forward for the role, the role would need to morph,” commissioner Stephen Falk said. “I wouldn’t see myself for a position as a building maintenance manager. I can’t see myself doing as much as Mark is doing and it seems different from what this body should be doing.”

Other commissioners agreed it might be time to revisit hiring a superintendent. “It has been high on the wish list of this board for a long time to have a building/property manager,” Hughes said.

While Falk agreed, he pointed out the district had just asked the voters to support the bond for facility improvements, and might possibly have to go to the voters again if there is a shortfall in funding for the new library. “Then we ask again for another ongoing amount,” he asked.

Robbins said his decision not to run for a third term was linked to the workload. “It’s taken quite an investment of time and effort,” he said, citing such demands as building maintenance and repairs. “I have put a lot of time into it.”

Robbins said the district has to operate and maintain the community center and Baker Field and run the summer kids program and kayak program on only $50,000 a year. The board doesn’t have the resources to fund a paid position, he said.

“There’s a peculiar tradition at parks of being extremely frugal and running on a shoestring,” he added.

A property manager would be a good idea, Robbins said, “But I don’t think it’s something we can do until our next operating levy.” A levy will not be on the ballot again until 2017.

Unlike other taxing districts, the parks district needs to periodically ask voters to support its operating funds. The current operating levy of approximately $50,000 costs property owners 8 cents for every $1,000 of property valuation, or $16 a year for a $200,000 home.

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