Council Seeks More Information on Parks, Recreation Options

At the heart of the debate of Menifee's parks and recreation maintenance is the presence of ...

At the heart of the debate of Menifee's parks and recreation maintenance is the presence of Valley-Wide Recreation and Parks District, which has this office at Wheatfield Park.
It is becoming more and more apparent that the complex situation regarding control of parks and recreation facilities in Menifee is not going to have a simple solution.

After listening to concerns voiced by seven public speakers and discussing their own concerns for nearly an hour, Menifee City Council members Wednesday chose not to approve a Phase 1 staffing plan for the city's newly formed Community Services Department.

The reason? An overwhelming belief by council members that additional staffing devoted to the city's parks and recreation shouldn't be considered until it is determined whether the city will even be controlling any of those facilities. In other words, the debate over how much control Valley-Wide Recreation and Parks District should have over the city's parks remains a key factor.

Here are the key points of a somewhat confusing issue:

-- At its Feb. 5 meeting, the city council approved only part of city's staff's recommendation to take control of all the city's parks and recreation facilities. Council approved the formation of a city Community Services Department and termination of the city's contract with Riverside County to maintain parks west of Interstate 215. However, council members did not approve a recommendation to end the city's relationship with Valley-Wide, which manages parks and recreation on the east side of the city.

-- At that meeting, council members expressed a desire to become more familiar with the benefits Valley-Wide provides. A request was made of city staff to organize a workshop that would help council members determine whether, in the long term, it would be more beneficial to the city to control the parks or to extend Valley-Wide's influence to the entire city.

-- On Wednesday night, city staff presented a proposal to expand the new Community Services Department from its current staff of three to a total of 12 full-time positions. The intent, said city manager Rob Johnson, was to prepare the city for the demands of running west-side parks once Menifee's contract with the county expires on June 30.

-- With the additional nine staff positions, expenses for the Community Services department would total $934,114. However, the city would save $650,000 by ending its contract with Riverside County. Finance director Terri Willoughby said she believed revenue generated through recreational programs sponsored by the city would offset the additional cost.

-- Council members Wallace Edgerton, Tom Fuhrman and John Denver questioned the wisdom in approving the additional staff positions to handle west-side facilities because it still has