Parks director completes probationary period

The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission voted Monday to formally remove the probationary status from Parks Director April Layher’s position after determining that she successfully completed the 90-day trial period.

“The commission has found no issues with Ms. Layher’s job performance and per her employment contract, her salary will be adjusted to the agreed upon number,” said Commissioner Jeff Pulliam after a five-minute executive session.

The commission agreed in December 2013 that upon the completion of a successful probationary period, Layher’s annual salary would increase from $47,000 to $51,800.

In other business, department sports league coordinator Fess Hawkins said that the parks department women’s basketball league has exceeded all expectations.

“These women play hard and they are having a great time,” Hawkins said. “We have a total of eight teams and the turnout has been huge. The women’s league is actually bigger than the men’s league.”

Hawkins said that the department is getting its softball program ready for spring.

“We have an umpire meeting set for April 10 and a meet-and-greet with the umpires and coaches set for April 17,” Hawkins said. “We just want to make sure everybody is on the same page before the season starts.”

Layher said a zero-tolerance code-of-conduct policy will be widely publicized to all participants in order to ensure a safe environment at the ballpark.

“We may look into having signage posted that alerts everyone attending the games what the code of conduct is for the facility,” Layher said.

Hawkins said his goal is to have as many different teams as possible.

“I want to get us back to the glory days when we had games four days a week,” Hawkins said. “I want us to have regular teams, church teams and industrial teams.”

The commission agreed to invite Jaycee Golf Course pro Xavier Powell to the next meeting of the personnel committee to discuss the possibility of buying out his inventory of golf carts and other items and then hiring him as an employee of the department.

“Right now he is paying us to have his business at the Jaycee Course, but we should look at the possibility of making him an employee to take the financial pressure off of him,” Commissioner Chris Blunt said.

Layher said she is working with her staff to develop summer programs for area children.

“We are developing programs for this summer,” Layher said. “They would be in two-week increments. I want to offer some sports programs that the children might not have been exposed to previously, including archery and tennis. We want to be able to teach them how to play each sport and what the rules are.”

Layher said that she is hoping to also include arts and crafts as well as environmental camps.

Layher said that a large hole that opened up at the site for the new splash park was filled in and stabilized.

“We checked to see if it was because of a pipe failure but it was determined that natural erosion was the cause,” Layher said.