Statement on Report of County's Organizational Reform Commission
Montgomery County Department
of Parks, M-NCPPC Statement on Report of County's
Organizational Reform Commission Related to Merger of
Park Police and Parks and Recreation Departments
SILVER SPRING, MD—Yesterday the Montgomery County Council received the final report of the County's Organizational Reform Commission (ORC), whose volunteer members were appointed by the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett to make recommendations for potential reorganization or consolidation of functions performed by County government and County-funded agencies.
The report recommended transferring all "park user services" to County Government and incorporating the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC)'s Montgomery Park Police force into the Montgomery County Police Department.
The report defines "Park user services" as: all classes, camps, and trips offered by Montgomery Parks; the programming and upkeep of the ice rinks, indoor tennis centers, athletic fields, park activity buildings, event centers, and boating facilities; facility permitting and class registration functions; and park law enforcement functions.
"We are in favor of streamlining functions and pursuing savings and efficiencies, and agree with several of the recommendations," states Montgomery County Planning Board/Parks Commission Chair Francoise M. Carrier. "We also share ORC Commissioner Scott Fosler's concerns that both mergers as outlined represent only modest cost-savings, if any, and could have significant negative impacts on the quality of our county's parks and public services."
The majority of the classes, camps, trips, and recreational facilities recommended for transfer in the ORC report fall under the management of the Montgomery Parks Enterprise Division, which is entirely self-sufficient and requires no tax dollars to operate.
"Merging county recreation into the M-NCPPC Parks Department may be a more cost-effective solution," notes Montgomery Parks Director Mary R. Bradford. "Since the County's Recreation Department is the size of an average Parks division, it could serve as a programming arm, as it traditionally does in other counties and municipalities. Our self-supporting Enterprise model would result in recreation programs and facilities operating more efficiently and at less expense to the taxpayer."
The ORC also proposes eliminating up to 32 Park Police positions by merging them into County Police. "County Police Officer salaries are higher than Park Police salaries," says Bradford. "We are concerned that the County will end up paying more for fewer officers to protect our parks."
In addition to traditional law enforcement functions, M-NCPPC's Park Police in Montgomery County provide crime prevention and stewardship of all the land managed by M-NCPPC * more than 10% of the county's land area. Besides routine street patrol, a key component of their mission is to protect the county's natural and historic resources, a service not otherwise provided by other County forces. The Park Police uncover and enforce park encroachment violations, patrol vast uninhabited areas for illegal occupancy and use, keep drug and criminal violations out of parklands, provide safety and security analysis for park planning and environmental design efforts, provide deer management, and act as front-line stream valley protectors.
"Ultimately, we want to make sure any decisions are in the best interests of the public and the county budget," says Carrier. "We look forward to continued dialogue on these issues, and agree with ORC co-chair Richard A. Wegman that a forum allowing for public debate and discussion of each recommendation is a critical step in this process."
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission was established by state law in 1927 by the Maryland General Assembly. Its charter, outlined in Article 28, is to serve Montgomery and Prince George's County residents by:
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