The Park District of Forest Park decided last week to limit the number of staff and board members who can attend the annual National Recreation and Park Association conference.
Starting with this year’s conference, scheduled for October 11-14 in Seattle, only the district’s executive director or his designee and the board president or his designee will be permitted to attend the conference, which includes training sessions and trade shows.
The board voted 3-2 to establish the policy, with commissioners Mike Espinosa and Roy Sansone voting in opposition.
“If we say no, only those two can go, we eliminate the option of other board members going,” said Espinosa.
Commissioner Cathy McDermott said that she did not believe there was a “demonstrated business need” for more than two people to attend the conference.
Executive Director Dave Novak said that the policy could be revisited each year if necessary. “Let’s say the conference is closer, in Indiana or even Chicago”we might revisit it then,” he said.
The park district budgeted $13,000 for professional development this year, which includes the national and state conferences as well as local, more specified training sessions. All five commissioners attend the state conference.
With just two representatives attending the national conference, Novak said, the park will have $4,000 remaining in its professional development budget.
Commissioner Joe Byrnes expressed concern that, if more than two people had attended the national conference, the leftover money might have dried up quicker than expected.
“We just found out we’re going to have to pay $15,000 for a water project which we didn’t expect,” he reminded the board. Moments earlier, Superintendent of Parks Larry Buckley notified the board that the park would have to replace a water tank which had developed a leak. The cost of replacing the tank had been estimated at $12,500 plus $2,800 for installation.
This year, board president Howard “Bud” Boy and Assistant Director Larry Piekarz will attend the conference. Though Novak and Piekarz typically alternate years attending, Piekarz will go for the second straight year due to Novak’s upcoming retirement.