Changes for Parks and Rec
In an effort to streamline the permitting process, create more consistency and improve preventative maintenance for facilities, the county Department of Parks and Recreation will be revamping its procedures in the coming months. From parks and public facilities to leagues and community sports, Parks and Rec is instrumental in running many activities, services and events on Molokai. If you’re in the market to book an event or organize a league, you may notice some changes in the process — all with the goal of making it simpler, quicker and more consistent.
Brianne Savage, deputy director of the department, explained the changes to Molokai residents last week. She said the changes come after identifying a number of challenges faced by the department, such as inconsistency with rules and procedures, no written guidelines for staff, slow or unpredictable response time to permit requests and scheduling issues leading to underutilization of facilities. To address these downfalls, county-wide improvements will be implemented.
“[We’re seeking] more consistency, but we do have different communities so it’s not necessarily one size fits all,” said Savage. She sought feedback from Molokai residents to ensure the changes will not be enforcing something that doesn’t work for this community, she added.
In addition to administrative changes, Molokai is slated for a slew of upgrades and maintenance of facilities and parks this year. Savage said construction on the Mitchell Pauole Center to upgrade the kitchen, wheelchair accessibility, restrooms and covered lanai will begin this week.
Other scheduled improvements include restroom improvements at the Kaunakakai Little League field, Papohaku Beach Park, Duke Maliu Regional Park and One Ali`i Park in the coming months. Drainage and grease trap upgrades will take place at Duke Maliu and Kualapu`u Community Center, and new chain link fencing will be erected at the Little League field and Duke Maliu.
Lights at Duke Maliu field will also be entirely replaced. The design has already been completed, according to Savage, and the department is now asking for county funding to install the new lighting.
The physical improvements are going hand in hand with the need for administrative adjustments to streamline the way Parks and Rec staff process requests and perform their duties. Staff training in a new software system has already begun that will allow electronic processing of permits. Savage assured residents that permitting staff would always remain on Molokai, but switching internal processes to the electronic system should speed up the approval process.
Along with that, the department will be standardizing the wait time for permits.
“There should be an expectation when you submit something of when you can get a response,” she said. “On the flip side… [we will publish] how much notice the department needs for planning events.”
The permit process can also be confusing because permits are named with numbers. Savage said the department will work to rename each permit by what purpose they serve — “league permit,” or “facility reservation,” for example.
Currently, department staff has no written administrative rules to guide their duties, and no written definitions for commonly-used terminology, according to Savage. Defining these words will help both staff and community members better communicate.
Another weakness of the department right now is that there is no preventative maintenance plan for facilities and playing fields.
“Right now… it’s reactive,” said Savage. “When something breaks, we try to fix it… [We want to] shift from reactive to proactive and preventative.”
Implementing an annual maintenance schedule will guide how often buildings need repainting or fields need aerating, for example, and the cost of those activities will be budgeted ahead of time. Savage said right now, there is a lot of catch-up work to do, and the department is requesting money for that in the Mayor’s annual budget, which will be submitted for approval on Tuesday.
Some of Molokai’s fields need to be regarded, and in preparation for local staff doing more regular maintenance, turf management training will take place in April, Savage said.
To implement all of these changes, department staff will participate in a training program “so we’re all playing by the same rules,” said Savage. The training, including refresher courses, will cover customer service, administrative rules and software training.
After listening to Savage’s presentation, Molokai residents asked questions ranging from wondering if maintenance programs will hire locally to whether the permitting process will become more stringent.
Savage said work on Molokai will be contracted locally when possible, but said it would be a combination of on- and off-island labor. Larger projects have to meet state requirements and go through a bidding process, but she said community members can assist the department by recommending local, licensed contractors and businesses.
When asked about improvements to the Kaunakakai gym, Savage said no upgrades to the current facility are planned but the department hopes to build a new gym in a higher elevation that could eventually double as an evacuation shelter. But that won’t be anytime soon, as property still has to be identified and purchased as a first step.
Another resident wondered if the administrative changes would make obtaining a permit more difficult.
“The application process should be pretty similar to what we have now,” said Savage. “Our requirements will not become more difficult — what might change is some of what we ask for now might not be required… [Our goal is] less red tape… to try to simplify it and make the process more clear.”
Savage added that the department would like to have more dialogue with the community before the proposed changes in administrative rules are implemented in the early fall. She said that staff will also be putting together a handbook to guide the community through the permit application process.