After many changes in recent years and with a variety of upcoming challenges, Lake in the Hills opted to reestablish both its parks and recreation department and the director position for it.
With the Village Board’s approval last week, the village will begin looking for a new director immediately, while the department itself is expected to be re-created in the fiscal 2023 budget.
Village officials cited a number of challenges the person taking over the role will have to deal with, including reduced interest in seasonal employment opportunities; minimum wage increases; post-COVID-19 anxiety from program participants and seasonal staff; aging playground equipment; increased costs for trips, food and supplies; beach operations management; and a reduction in program offerings.
The village used to be able to rely on schools to help run programs, but now schools are charging for those services, Village Administrator Shannon Andrews said at a meeting last week. Several businesses also partnered with the department in the past to help build their client bases, but those opportunities have passed as well, she said.
“We have a well-established community, which is the natural progression of things,” Andrews said. “Our recreation department has done an amazing job being able to pivot.”
The position also becomes more important with the village’s goal of Larsen Park becoming a “premier park facility,” along with the parks master plan needing an update, according to village documents. In total, the parks and recreation division oversees about 30 parks, beaches and facilities, according to its website.
“The village needs a leader in the parks and recreation field who has the knowledge and experience to guide future… decision-making in the village,” according to village documents.
The salary is projected to be $ 126,586, which will be paid for using funds saved by a series of positions being either changed or not refilled within the village, according to documents.
Currently, the division has a recreation superintendent and two full-time recreation supervisors after years of reductions, restructuring and consolidation starting in 2017. Still, even adding a director to that staff would see the department below its peak performance needs, according to village documents .
The decision to restructure the department came as a way to save money, Village President Ray Bogdanowski said. As part of the decision to restore it, Bogdanowski said he thinks it will offer a chance to have better oversight of the facilities and programs.
“It was presented as a way to have some savings, and we’d be better for it,” he said. “But the problem was we weren’t better for it.”
At the time, the department was broken up between the community services department, which was created to deal with recreational programming and special events, and the village’s public works department, which managed facility operations and improvements.
The community services department was dissolved in 2020, according to village documents. The newly created assistant village administrator subsequently had the job of overseeing the recreation division.
However, when the role was vacated by Andrews, who earlier this year became the village administrator, it was deemed “extremely difficult” to find someone who had both the skills of an assistant village administrator and had knowledge about recreational programming, according to village documents .
The hope is to bring in someone who will have the knowledge needed to run parks and recreation facilities, thus taking it off the plate of the assistant village administrator, staff said in the documents.
“We just see all kinds of challenges by breaking it up,” Bogdanowski said.