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Bremerton parks department to add staffer
The Bremerton City Council voted unanimously this week to hire a new parks and recreation department employee to assist with customer service and clerical work.
With benefits and other associated costs, the three-quarter-time employee will cost the city $36,108. As a way to help offset that cost, the parks department will no longer offer an early childhood learning program that is offered elsewhere throughout the city, including at the Bremerton School District.
Parks Director Wyn Birkenthal said that eliminating that redundant program, and directing users to others offering the same service, will save the city about $22,000.
Birkenthal noted how busy his department’s Lebo Boulevard headquarters can be. He said the office handles just over 1,200 registrations for classes and activities; over 500 park reservations for games, parties and activities; and walk-ins from a low of 12 in winter months and a high of 50 in the summer season.
“Normally, in the past, the parks and recreation department has had two office assistant positions assigned to it to handle that customer contact and clerical workflow,” Birkenthal said. “Because of budget constraints beginning with this budget year, the parks department went down to zero office assistants or clerical folks.”
Birkenthal said that a result of those cuts, other city staffers and recreation coordinators were forced to pick up the slack.
“We were using our professional staff inefficiently rather than reaching out because they were a little bit tied to our front desk,” Birkenthal said.
Bremerton resident John Larson, who serves as the chair of the parks and recreation commission, spoke in favor of the new hire. He said that budget cuts to parks and recreation amounted to “a case of not just cutting the fat or muscle, but actually cutting the bone” by not having support staff to provide customer service.
Larson also said that doing away with the early childhood learning program will not leave participants abandoned because parks staff can direct folks to other nearby providers.