Parks and recreation panel will be reviewing finances

The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. today at the department’s Lake Saracen office. The purpose of the meeting — the commission’s first since the city council approved a resolution last week to leave the panel “as is” with five members — is to review finances.

The commission, which Mayor Debe Hollingsworth had wanted to dissolve so parks and recreation would become a city department reporting only to the city council and mayor’s office, has been criticized recently by the mayor and other officials for not maintaining financial oversight.

An ordinance recommended by the council’s administration committee and calling for enlargement of the commission to 11 members received its first reading last week and is expected to be slated for a second reading at Monday night’s council session. The resolution, which is non-binding, was passed on a 5-2 vote with Aldermen Bill Brumett and Steven Mays casting the nays. Alderman George Stepps, who chairs the administration committee, withdrew his support of the proposed ordinance — which had been unanimously endorsed by the committee — and joined Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown and Lloyd Holcomb Jr. in steering the resolution to passage. Alderman Wayne Easterly was absent.

Brumett and Mays have supported Hollingsworth’s contention that the commission needs to be enlarged. The mayor said that with only five members, the committee is too small to meet its committee needs.

Last year, parks and recreation experienced a $103,452 financial shortfall with a summer youth activities program. The department went over its 2011 budget by approximately $50,000. Several commissioners have said they weren’t made aware of the shortages until “after the fact” and have blamed Parks and Recreation Director Angela Parker for the problems.

Hollingsworth, however, maintains that current council guidance mandates that the commission possesses oversight responsibility.