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The nature of the facilities have changed over the last 20 years… and somebody's got to ride herd on it.

Watertown reorganizes troubled rec department

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The city of Watertown will reorganize its Parks and Recreation Department after learning about years of outstanding bills owed to the city for use of Fairgrounds facilities.

In late May, an audit revealed a pattern of messy bookkeeping and billing practices resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of lost revenue for the city. Joanna Richards has the story.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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City Council decided Monday night to create two departments out of one, separating out the Department of Parks and Recreation from the Department of Public Works.

Two new adminstrators will take over Parks and Recreation soon, replacing James St. Croix, the current department head who plans to retire in August.

City mayor Jeff Graham said he knows what he's looking for in the new superintendent post for the department. “Somebody into customer service, business end of it, keeping track of the money, using technology,” Graham said. “The kind of things that they would beat into you if you were running a Home Depot or a Lowe's or something like that. And that I think is important. And that's what I hope the manager would be looking for, and I certainly will urge her to do so.”

Graham said the role of the Parks and Recreation Department has changed as the city has grown over the years, but its capacity and professionalism didn't exactly keep pace with all the new commercial activity at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. “The nature of the facilities have changed over the last 20 years,” the mayor said, “from just being a place where you held a county fair once a year to now there's all these activities going on. Not just sports leagues, but also concerts and other things happening, and somebody's got to ride herd on it.”

As for collecting the funds owed to the city for use of the sports fields and ice arena going back years, the mayor says some money has been collected, but other debts will likely go unpaid. Some of the debts are three or four years old and were never billed in a timely manner, so there's not much the city can do at this point, other than do better going forward.

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