BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Parks board may launch a program aimed at recruiting volunteers, specifically high school students, to help with city projects.
At Wednesday’s regular meeting of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Docks board, board members said high school students at both Fort Madison public and Holy Trinity Catholic could play a bigger role in helping with park maintenance.
City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll, sitting in on his final meeting with the board, said the board should move to a focus of fundraising and volunteer development.
Driscoll said city staff came up with the idea of creating a network of volunteers instead.
“Instead of us paying out of the budget, which isn’t a lot, for labor to rehab a bathroom or other issues… you’re gonna have to come up with a plan for what projects you wanna do.”
Sue Pieper said she thought it was a great idea to get the schools involved.
Board Chairman Jim Decker said the building trades program at the high school built the bus stop in Old Settlers Park.
“People will help, but you have to ask them,” Decker said.
Driscoll said the city gets prison labor only on Wednesday afternoons, but he said it’s not a given that the city will get them.
He said the P.O.R.T. Trail committee does a lot of fundraising.
“It’s not run through the city,” Driscoll said. “No. 1 we couldn’t do it, and No. 2 when it’s not part of the city and it’s a group of people, people donate more money to that. They don’t like to donate straight to the city.”
He said people donate money for a structure or statue, it’s hard for the city to fund the maintenance.
“Aren’t you accepting that commitment when you accept that money?” said board member Paul Wilkerson.
“Yeah, and we do the best we can. It’s something to think about. Right now things run well, we’re keeping up, and people are volunteering, but the next generations aren’t helping out.”
Decker said it is getting harder and harder to get young people involved in stuff.
Wilkerson said if you get the schools involved the kids will start to take ownership of it, and the board should consider having a booth at high school registrations.
“When those kids and parents are together, we could recruit at that time. I wouldn’t mind helping do that and recruiting for projects, if we know what the projects are,” Wilkerson said.
Driscoll said he communicates with the schools regarding the 20 hours of community service requirement and he said last year he got one person.
He said that’s what the department will be looking to the board for direction on.
“We just can’t do it all,” he said.
In other action, the board voted to recommend:
• an increase in enclosed shelter house lease fees and deposits from the current rate of $25 per day to $50 per day.
• adding a $30 bounce house fee in city parks as well as requiring additional insurance for the bounce houses in city parks.