SOUTHWICK — Town officials plan to merge the Council on Aging and Parks and Recreation Department on a trial basis, hoping that both functions can be conducted more efficiently.
The trial will see Parks and Recreation head Cara Cartello taking on a prominent role with the Council on Aging, which operates the town’s Senior Center. She recently became the head of Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (SHINE) at Southwick’s COA.
Finance Committee acting Chair Art Pinnell said that Parks and Recreation needs more help running and maintaining its properties, and the Council on Aging needs additional man-hours. This measure is being reviewed by the Finance Committee because it may result in changes to some salaried positions in town.
Chief Administrative Officer Karl J. Stinehart told the Finance Committee that the Council on Aging would modify its hours so that its staff could assist with the functions of Parks and Recreation. He said that both departments already have experience with organizing events, albeit to different populations in town, and that having those groups come together would be a net benefit.
“Those boards are really interested in having the different groups of people sort of get exposed to each other,” said Stinehart, “Like the seniors being exposed to youth activities.”
During the Sept. 13 Select Board meeting, Council on Aging Chair Paula LeBlanc said that having seniors interact more with Southwick’s younger populations would be a positive thing.
“I see this only as a win-win situation,” said LeBlanc.
Pinnell said that he had been advocating to Parks and Recreation for some time that it needed to address its “management issue,” but there was reluctance to provide the funds that were needed to grow the department’s payroll.
Stinehart noted that the Senior Center recently had one staff member move out of state, and another retired, furthering the need for support from other departments.
The trial merger will be funded through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2022. To continue it into fiscal 2023, it would need to be included in next year’s town budget. Stinehart said that there is no estimate for how much that will cost, and that conversation will take place during the budget process.