Q&A 2003

Editor’s Note: Practices and procedures at parks and recreation departments are not usually one-size-fits-all solutions. There are some things that are universal — like safety regulations — but the variables that go into making a program or facility work best are legion and based heavily upon the needs and demographics of the locale.

We recently polled parks and recreation professionals from around the country for our annual Q&A feature and got some interesting responses, representing a diversity of subjects and opinions.

It’s our hope that you learn something of value and find a nugget of insight, inspiration or raw information. Or better yet, all of the above…

Next year, we’ll continue to expand on this concept but need your participation. Do you have a question that crops up a lot, and you don’t have a good answer?

Whether you have questions or have some great answers to the challenges of running a parks and recreation department, we’d like to hear from you.

Send us an e-mail at editor@northstarpubs.com, give us a call at (830) 257-1012, fax us at (830) 257-1020 or go to www.parksandrecbusiness.com.

Q: It seems that tighter-economy budget cuts are translating to smaller inventories of maintenance items such as lawn and garden tools, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, etc. How does the parks and recreation professional maintain and/or find that proper level of inventory to be sure stock is always available for these mandatory items?

A: Many purchasing divisions now employ a level of JIT (just in time) inventory by shifting the “storage” requirements to the supplier. That is to say that all of the bids are written on an as-needed basis.

Vendors are asked to provide a price based on the buyer’s simple request of the item, not the quantity, be it 1 or 20 (for example, one square-ended shovel = $3.25, 20 = $65). In this regard, the buyer is not required to store 20 shovels for a total cost of $65. Instead, he may need three (total $9.75) for that particular year and end up saving $55.25 in unnecessary stock.

Might the buyer overpay by not providing an absolute estimate that the supplier could discount? Perhaps, but the margin is slim and likely smaller than the cost of carrying extra inventory.

As you monitor your needs, the amount of shelf stock becomes more easily estimated but with the as-needed method, minimum estimates are never even required. It’s a win-win for both buyer and supplier.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

Q:< My budget has been drastically cut. What suggestions do you have for keeping my athletic fields playable under tight budget situations?

A: In light of the current economy, many of you are facing some pretty severe budget cuts. Several things come to mind on how to cope with these situations…

First is to remember that safety is the biggest issue you face. You must provide a safe playing surface even if it is not the best looking. Regular dragging of the fields to keep them level and keep base plugs at grade is essential. Making sure safety signs are installed and readable and performing pre-game safety checks should be continued.

In terms of the fields themselves, look for any waste in supplies or manpower. For example, you might be able to apply broadleaf weed control or pre-emergent weed control every other year and still have satisfactory results.

Divide your fields into different management categories so you are using your manpower and supplies where they are needed most.

Look for additional ways to fund or accomplish work on your fields. For instance, user groups can line and drag fields and booster clubs can raise money for equipment or supplies.

Oftentimes, when manpower is cut, it is easier to justify purchasing new equipment to take up the slack. In general, equipment is cheaper than labor. Finally, put together a good PR campaign. Let people know why your fields are not up to snuff and work with them to find the right solutions.

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