MARINETTE — The Infrastructure Committee of the Marinette County Board Wednesday gave County Administrator John Lefebvre the go-ahead to further develop a plan to move Parks from the Forestry and Parks Department to the jurisdiction of the Facilities Department. 

The committee authorized the further development of the plan by a 4-1 margin with supervisors Al Mans, Bill Stansfield, Al Sauld and Gilbert Engel voting in favor, Shirley Kaufman dissenting and David Zahn abstaining.

Lefebvre said he asked for the proposal to be placed on the committee’s agenda after several conversations about it with Forestry and Parks Administrator Pete Villas, Facilities Director Marty Keyport and other county officials.

“It is my belief that this would be a good idea to take parks and move them to facilities,” he said. “I think it would benefit all three departments.”

He said from a forestry standpoint he is looking at ways to increase timber sales and that this proposal would free Villas up to concentrate specifically on “forestry-related stuff and get out to do the forestry-related stuff that he has been trained for, and not have to worry about the parks side of things.”

“From a facilities standpoint, we have a very large and complex amount of facilities in the county handled by one particular person and that is Marty,” Lefebvre said. “If Marty would ever leave employment with the county, we would be back to square one. What I will recommend as part of this is that we would create an assistant facilities position. That person would have knowledge and experience related to parks and recreation and as well would be second in command for facilities.”

He said he’s confident the new facilities position would pay for itself in the long run “to help us to make sure that our facilities are in good shape and good order and get more projects done.”

Lefebvre said from a facilities standpoint that forestry could continue to do a lot for parks as the Highway Department does for other departments.

He said the Facilities, Forestry and Parks offices would remain in the same location on the third floor of courthouse with Kellie Hartman serving as administrative assistant for all three of them.

He explained that the main duty of the parks workers right now is to maintain facilities.

Villas, who said he has been in charge of parks and forestry for about six years, said he would be help with the transition and that forestry would still be involved in some facilities projects and “I’m not going to close things off and say ‘you figure it out.’”

“I can remember when our parks administrator went to Door County and this was all thrown in Pete’s lap,” said Mans, committee chairperson. “He never complained, he never asked to be compensated (for the additional duties of overseeing parks). I’m glad, John, that you recognize the need to have someone fill that spot.”

“At that point, we needed somebody out there getting these projects done, getting things in shape and getting everybody on the same page and now I think we are there,” Villas said. “We have a supervisor now and foremen.”

Lefebvre said he wanted to know if the committee was open to the concepts he presented, and if so, he would come forward later with job descriptions and an estimate of what it will cost to implement the plan.

Villas explained that parks and forestry have separate budgets but some of the same revenue streams.

“The official name of your department is Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation,” Zahn said. “There is a strong connection between forestry, parks and recreation. Are you looking at just moving parks and not outdoor recreation? I’m worried about the Parks Department being created like an orphan stepchild. We need to keep in mind the value of our parks, especially with tourism.”

“I’m adding one more employee to it,” Lefebvre said. “We’ve got everything we have now and we’re adding one more employee. So that means we can get more done.”

“We still have to work together no matter what because there’s going to be things intertwined (such as ATV and snowmobile trails),” Villas said. “I don’t think there’s going to be an absolute clear-cut separation. There just can’t be, they’re too intertwined.”

Stansfield said, “I don’t think we have to worry about these guys being segregated because highway works with parks and forestry already. It seems like our county (departments) work together no matter what.”

Engel said he wants county officials to continue to have a vision for the future instead of things staying the same.

“The intent is to put a professional in place that has parks and recreation experience and knowledge,” Lefebvre said. “I’m doing it to make it better. I think I can step up the game with this.”

“I’ve worked with numerous administrators and your current administrator has great vision and what it would take to make the parks better,” said Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.

“I personally can’t go with it at this time,” Kaufman said. “I need more information. I’m still in favor of looking at it, but I’m of opposed to it right now.”

Zahn said he abstained from voting because “I’m concerned if I voted ‘no’ it would imply that I have a closed mind.”