Mayor unveils Parks Department reorganization plan

·3 min read

Aug. 5—NEWBURYPORT — The mayor's office on Thursday released more details into its plans to absorb the Parks Department into the Department of Public Works, a proposal that resulted in the removal of Parks Director Lise Reid and raised the ire of city councilors and Reid supporters.

The proposal is to be discussed during Monday's City Council meeting where it will likely be referred to a council subcommittee for further evaluation. It was included in a packet of agenda items and information given to city councilors prior to the meeting. The packet is available on the city's website.

"Newburyport is extremely fortunate to have so many parks to serve our desire to connect with open space both actively and passively," Mayor Sean Reardon said in a statement. "We owe it to these parks and to our community to leave no stone unturned when it comes to opportunities to deliver a high level of service in an efficient manner."

Reardon believes the reshuffling will result in a savings of more than $100,000 per year.

"I strongly believe that the best path forward to care for our parks and ultimately to serve the residents and taxpayers of Newburyport is a reorganization that will produce better outcomes while simultaneously using city resources more efficiently," Reardon said. "I want to thank everyone who worked hard to complete this plan, and I look forward to its consideration by the City Council."

The plan describes the details for reassigning this position's responsibilities and shows the operational advantages of consolidating this department, including sharing of equipment, improving administrative systems in the parks division, and saving on bulk purchases and shared contracts.

Under the City Charter, the plan needs at least one public hearing, and the plan will be in effect after 60 days from its introduction unless the City Council votes against it. The city will be following up the plan with requests for needed budget transfers and amendments to the Code of Ordinances that will accompany the mayor's administrative order, according to the mayor's statement.

Per the charter, the mayor must submit the administrative order for the plan to be considered.

Perhaps the most contentious aspect of the plan was the decision to eliminate Reid's position and shift the majority of her responsibilities to DPS with additional assistance from the mayor's office, the Parks Commission, and Newburyport Youth Services.

Reardon informed Reid on July 8 that her position would be eliminated. In response, multiple city councilors accused Reardon of violating the city's charter by not filing an administrative order with the council before terminating Reid's employment with the city.

But Reardon said Reid was still an employee, having not yet signed off on a severance package he offered her. Reardon also argued, in a written statement, that the reorganization has not happened yet and he will be submitting the order by Monday.

Dave Rogers is the editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.