Members of the Cocke County General Committee meeting Thursday spent a lot of time talking about the oversight of the county recreation department.
At a July meeting, the committee reached a consensus that a board of directors should be appointed to oversee the department’s operation.
Currently it is under the direction of County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, but Recreation Director Brian Evans and Ottinger both voiced support for an oversight board.
Several commissioners have been approached by parents who have concerns about the scheduling of games. Parents at the meeting also voiced concern recreation rules are not applied consistently for all schools, that some umpires as young as 14 do not know the rules of the game and that the department is poorly organized.
The department was organized in 2001 under a private act passed by the state legislature, and that act would have to be rescinded if a new oversight is put in place.
County Attorney Brittany Vick said a new board could be established to oversee the operation: park and recreation board or a conservation board.
She said the park and recreation board would be appointed by the CLB chair and would serve for a five-year term. Under a county conservation board, the board could be appointed by the county mayor and the board would have control of the department and employ a director.
Currently the department is operated by Evans with oversight from Ottinger.
Dennis Thornton, who currently chairs the recreation oversight board told the committee Ottinger has not appointed or reappointed anyone to the board. He said the board is purely advisory, with the mayor hiring and firing the recreation director.
He said the board has not met in over a year because “we brought up a lot of things with the mayor at our last meeting but we could see no progress going forward and so everybody lost interest.”
Committee Chair Norman Smith said surrounding counties do not have their recreation under the jurisdiction of the mayor.
Commissioner Forest Clevenger suggested the county recreation program, with a $300,000 budget, be combined with the city recreation department. The city has a combined parks and recreation department with a $1.2 million budget.
In response, Smith remembered previous talk of combining the city and county animal control and animal shelter.
“We were all together on an animal shelter at one time, and then all of a sudden, the county wasn’t putting enough money in so they said ‘we’ll do our own.’ I can tell you ahead of time, the county better come up with $1.2 million.”
Commissioner Gary Carver suggested Evans be given guidelines to follow and when parents have grievances, they can be taken to the recreation board.
Commissioner Calvin Ball, saying “you won’t make everyone happy,” argued for keeping the current board in place.
Eventually the committee asked Vick to research the appointment of a parks and recreation board, relieving the CLB of any responsibility. The committee will meet in the near future for further discussion.