“The park visitation was down, way down” — Ron Branda

Parks go in the red for 2008

ARENAC COUNTY — For the second straight year, Arenac County Parks’ expenses exceeded revenues.

This year, the Parks Board will have to borrow approximately $16,405 from the county’s general fund to balance the parks budget, said Arenac County Parks Board Chairman Ronald Branda.

“The park visitation was down, way down,” Branda said. “Weather was not all that pleasant the first four or five weeks (of the season). … Our attendance was way down at AuGres.”

According to a copy of the parks budget, the gate receipts were about $12,371 short of the projected amount of $50,000.

And since the AuGres Park, one of two Arenac County parks that have a gate fee, had a dip in attendance, the overall revenues of the parks took a hit.

This put the Parks Board in a quandary, since at the beginning of the season it offered a retroactive 20 cents per hour bonus to parks employees who stuck with the job all summer long.

Branda says the bonus added approximately $400 onto the parks expenses, as four attendants stuck around for the whole season, and brought the wages for those four park attendants up from $7.40 per hour to $7.60 per hour.

When the Arenac County Board of Commissioners, which had to approve the bonus since the money for it would be coming out of the county’s general fund, approved the bonus on Sept. 23, a verbal jousting match ensued between Mike Calery, a county resident at the meeting, and County Commissioner Joseph Sancimino.

“Why is this bonus even being offered?” Calery said. “If you’re in the red, how can you offer additional money?”

Calery added he was upset since last year the Board also approved a parks employee bonus, even though the parks were over budget in 2007 as well.

Sancimino disputed Calery’s points, though.

“A bonus is given for a reason,” Sancimino said. “These guys make minimum wage and they do a lot of rough things. … It’s very hard to get people who know the parks, know the people, know the operation, and keep them around.”

Read more in the Oct. 1 issue of "The Arenac County Independent."


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