County hires Arrington as parks and rec manager

Published 5:05 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Chilton County Commission voted on Tuesday to hire Gerald Arrington as the new parks and recreation manager for both Minooka Park and Higgins Ferry Park.

Commissioner Shannon Welch told commissioners that Arrington was the only person to apply for the position and suggested commissioners hire Arrington with a set salary of $50,000 per year.

Commissioner Greg Moore made the motion to hire Arrington for the new position with Welch seconding the motion.

Commissioners Bobby Agee, Welch, Moore and Allen Caton voted in favor of hiring Arrington for the new position.

Commissioners Heedy Hayes and Joe Headley voted against the motion.

Commissioner Joseph Parnell was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Welch introduced the idea for a county parks and recreation manager for Minooka Park and Higgins Ferry Park during the Feb. 10 commission meeting.

Welch told commissioners in February he would like to see the position created to help grow the parks.

Some of the commissioners expressed concerns with the amount of funding that would be required for the new position and tabled the discussion until April 14 when they voted to advertise for the position.

Welch said in April that he thought the new parks and recreation manager would boost interest in both parks by bringing more attractions to the area.

“We have two parks that are unique in Alabama,” Welch said in April. “One is Minooka Park where you can bring your 4-wheelers, horses, bicycles and motorcycles. There really is something for everyone at the park. You also have Higgins Ferry Park with Lake Mitchell that attracts a lot of visitors. We are very fortunate to have these two parks in our county.”

Welch said he thought different events could be brought to the parks including the possibility of hosting a fishing tournament, or someone who could apply for different grants to help grow both of the parks.

Another avenue the parks and recreation director would be in charge of would be promoting the parks through the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and a website.

Arrington was the park manager at Minooka Park where commissioners said he made roughly $42,000-$43,000 a year and Frank Atkinson was the park manager at Higgins Ferry Park until retiring May 1.

Atkinson announced earlier this year he planned to retire and the commission voted to advertise for a park manager at Higgins Ferry Park.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Welch suggested asking Arrington to review applications from candidates who applied for the park manager position at Higgins Ferry Park and conduct interviews for his top two or three.

Hayes expressed concerns with allowing Arrington to interview the candidates without input from the commission.

“We had previously discussed we were going to interview these candidates and now we are saying Arrington is going to interview them,” Hayes said. “This is not what we talked about before.”

Welch said he wanted to get the process of selecting someone for the position started as Atkinson is currently working part time at the park until someone is hired.

“Frank has indicated he is tired and ready to stop working,” Welch said. “I don’t think it is right to continue stringing him along.”

Agee said he didn’t have a problem with Arrington selecting the top two or three candidates from the list of applicants, but he wanted to visibly see the individuals before hiring them.

“I would just really like to see who I am hiring,” Agee said. “I don’t have a problem with him [Arrington] selecting the top candidates, but I would just like to see the people before we hire them.”

Commissioners voted to schedule a work session for 5 p.m. June 9 for the purpose of interviewing a new park ranger for Higgins Ferry and voting on who to hire at the regularly scheduled commission meeting at 6 p.m.

Moore seconded the motion with the rest of the commissioners voting in favor.

A lengthy discussion followed when commissioners decided to set a salary for the park ranger position at Higgins Ferry.

Welch said Atkinson’s position was an hourly paid position of roughly $28,000 a year but Welch thought the new park ranger should become a salaried position.

“I would like to see the position go to a salary position because there were a lot of times Frank worked late hours,” Welch said.

Welch made a motion to pay the new park ranger a salary of $28,000 a year with benefits.

Moore seconded the motion.

“I guess I am the only one who is going to say something,” Hayes said. “We talked about not paying this new position to offset the position we were creating for Gerald. We discussed not paying this new man as much money and now we are paying Gerald more money and talking about paying this new position the same amount. “We are changing everything we said we were going to do.”

Welch said the position of park ranger at Higgins Ferry Park would be responsible for an entire park.

“I think you need to pay them a decent amount,” Welch said. “If you get around $20,000, you are barely cover minimum wage.”

Caton spoke up and said it was important to hire a good person in that position due to the park ranger being responsible for money brought in to the park.

“That position has to handle about $20,000,” Caton said. “It is hard to keep up with money down there and we were fortunate with Frank who was very responsible with keeping up with it.”

Hayes said commissioners were being faced with a “different situation” than what had been previously discussed.

“When we talked about this whole thing, we weren’t going to pay this person that amount,” Hayes said.

Headley echoed Hayes saying commissioners had previously discussed cutting the amount for the park ranger to give Arrington more money for the new parks and recreation manager.

“We are adding a lot of responsibility,” Welch said. “The theory behind this is to try to make the parks better and increase more revenue for the county. As far as Gerald goes, you are giving him more responsibility and he should be compensated for that.”

Agee asked commissioners if they thought it would be acceptable to take the $28,000 and lower it to $25,000 for the park ranger position.

“I am just trying to get something we can all agree on,” Agee said.

Welch rescinded his original motion and made a new motion to offer the park ranger at Higgins Ferry Park a salary of $25,000 plus benefits.

Moore seconded the motion with everyone else voting in favor.