Parks department on its way out in Evesham Township?

In response to an edict to look into the privatization of every aspect of township services, interim Township Administrator Bill Cromie presented several costs estimates for the privatization of the parks department.

In late March, Mayor Randy Brown said constituents were asking the township government to do more with less.

He tasked Cromie and the township administration to find ways to cut costs, starting with an investigation to see if privatization of township services would be an option.

The township parks department consists of nine full-time employees who maintain the grass on public property in Evesham, Cromie said.

The personnel costs in the department are $644,900, with mowing expenses also totaling $104,000 for a department total of $748,400.

Based on several estimates — not official bids, Cromie said — if the township outsourced the lawn mowing duties to a private contractor, it would possibly cost about $479,000 a year. Mowing the grass 26 times a year would cost about $425,000, fertilization $13,000, and replacement employees for leaf collection would be about $40,300.

One-time payouts for unemployment to the nine employees and other costs would be about $167,000 for the first year of the deal. After the first year, Cromie estimated the township could save about $269,400 if it privatizes the services.

However, in addition to grass and mowing duties, the nine employees also repair playground equipment, maintain township equipment, groom the ball fields, help with the placement of soccer goals, help with event preparation and cleanup and also collect trash from all of the parks.

While this is not the majority of their work, Cromie said that if the department were disbanded, other township employees would have to pick up the slack for these other duties.

“We need to get a cost analysis of how this will affect the other departments before making a decision,” Councilman Ken D’Andrea said after the presentation.

It’s also important to ensure that the township has outs if a contract is agreed upon, D’Andrea said. Too many times, have towns agreed to multi-year deals to privatize and then found that the level of service is not up to expectations, but there’s no way to break the contract, he said.

Brown agreed and said the council has some serious thinking to do. It’s important to cut costs, he said, but not at the expense of cutting the level of service township residents have come to expect.

“I can’t stress enough the excellent work that our parks guys and DPW employees do in this town. It is a rarity that we get complaints about the work that our employees do. It’s first class and extremely professional,” he said. “On the other hand, we have to be accountable for our tax payers who are demanding that we find a way to streamline government and not raise the tax rates in town.”

This is the livelihood of nine employees in the town, Brown said, so its imperative the council makes a decision as quickly as possible.