MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 25, 2014

Parks should have public oversight


— City officials are exploring Love-Hatbox Sports Complex being managed, marketed and promoted by a private company.

City councilors approved the proposal to send out requests seeking qualifications of private contractors. Some councilors expressed concern about any plan that might displace city workers.

Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson said full-time employees perform maintenance of the athletic venues at the complex. The city hires part-time workers to operate concessions. Wilkerson, however, conceded he is unaware how hiring a management company might change present operations.

Councilors commissioned the $75,000 study in response to plans to relocate the fairground and activities regularly booked there. Since they approved the consultant’s final report in January 2013, a task force made up of parks board members has been honing plans to move forward.

Wilkerson said the request for qualifications will be solicited nationwide.

On the surface, we’re not in favor of privatization. But we’re willing to find out what it would take and what exactly it would mean if the Love-Hatbox Sports Complex were to be turned over to a private company.

Parks are a public function and need to have public oversight.