(click on photos to view enlarged)
Remember Kyle? He’s the nice Park maintenance worker I previously wrote about who took the time to rescue the little Acorn Woodpecker from Sycamore Pool at One Mile in Bidwell Park. Kyle received his “pink slip” the other day along with 2 other Park workers. Kyle is a victim of recent budget “cutbacks,” a telling metaphor when you consider that those who are “cut” lose their means of livelihood. Kyle has twin baby girls and one little boy at home for whom he is responsible. Kyle has seniority with the city and could “bump,” another city employee in another department who would thereby lose a livelihood, but what a terrible choice to be forced to make.
Over the years, gradual cuts to the park budget have brought the number of workers down from the original 12 to the current 7. But as of July 5th, due to further cuts to the park budget, we’ll only have a crew of 4 park maintenance workers to clean and maintain the infrastructure of all of Bidwell Park.
I thought then, and I think now, that I don’t mind paying whatever it costs for workers like Kyle who keep the park and restrooms so nice and clean for the rest of us. As long as things go smoothly, it might be easy to take the services these workers provide for granted. But not if you’d seen them over the years as I have, day in and day out, mowing lawns, fixing drinking fountains, mending broken fences, sweeping up broken glass, picking up trash, cleaning Sycamore Pool, scrubbing away graffiti, and, yes, cleaning the restrooms.But you can’t take services for granted that are no longer provided, and what will the results of these cutbacks mean for the Park and to Park users? Will the gates of the Park and the restrooms be locked during the week? Will Sycamore Pool still be cleaned once a week? I know the remaining 4 Park workers will do the best job they can (they always have) but will they be able to keep up with the work done at first by 12 and then by 7?
Those of us who value the park could help out by cleaning up after ourselves and even after others who’ve left a mess behind. I took this photo of what appears to be the remains of a birthday party over the weekend. We can’t leave a mess like this for the Park crew to clean up after us. There’s an old back-packers slogan that we need to follow now: “If you can pack it in, you can pack it out.”
But even with the most user-friendly efforts, the drastic cuts to the park budget may result in partial closure. Even now, if you are an early morning user, you will find the park gate and restrooms locked. I took this photo of Sycamore Pool several years ago, not knowing that its message was prophetic. But the city has set priorities and made choices detrimental to the park, the consequences of which I feel as a personal loss.
I recently found out that senior Park Maintenance worker, Billy, has decided to retire.
That means that Kyle can stay on as one of the 4 person park maintenance crew. Unfortunately, Lloyd, who has years of experience in park trail maintenance, will still receive his pink slip. What a shame to lose all the knowledge he’s accumulated over the years.
But staffing is still uncertain and could even worsen. City staff admits that nobody knows what’s going to happen. Other Chico City employees in various departments have received pink slips too. Using their “bumping rights” some will end up in departments they know nothing about. Disruption and confusion are bound to occur so we’ll have to be patient and supportive during these changes, knowing that workers will do the best they can.
But such a piecemeal, reactive response to staffing is not the way to staff the Park (or any other city department). Staffing should be in accord with actual need, funded by sufficient revenue. Since there isn’t adequate revenue now, we need to find the means to generate more; city services come at a cost.
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