By Jessica Mathews /

The City of Howell is reviewing its annual contract with the Howell Parks and Recreation Authority for managing the park and boat launch.

At Monday night’s virtual City Council meeting, Manager Paul DeBuff sought direction from Council on the agreement in which the City pays the Authority around $45,000 to run the city park and boat launch. DeBuff noted it’s been a conversation with Council as it is a yearly agreement but said it appears the City could perform many of the duties in-house for around $25,000. While the City would see savings, he cautioned that the con is that it would cost HAPRA around $20,000. The City is faced with significant budget challenges and thus various areas are continually being explored to achieve savings.

Under the management contract, the Authority is responsible for manning the guard booth and handles pavilion rentals, which goes on year round. The Authority also manages the distribution of annual park passes for City residents and other participating municipalities that include Marion, Howell, Oceola and Genoa Townships. It was stated City staff already handles various things such as raking the beach, garbage removal and seasonal employees handle lawn maintenance. Staff opens park gates in the morning, which are closed by police close at night. Concessions are run by the Authority, which receives that revenue, but it was stated the City doesn’t have the capability to run the concessions.

The extra cost was attributed to the Authority having to hire staff and supervisors, which the City in theory already has on board. However, DPS Director Erv Suida expressed some reservations related to city staffing levels. Sudia commented it would be an additional burden on a staff that already has a full plate, noting he wasn’t saying it couldn’t be done but said it would take a lot of working out to be able to handle the amount of people coming in for pavilion rentals, as well as the park sticker distribution.

Mayor Nick Proctor and some other members voiced support for moving some or all of the operation in-house. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor commented it’s becoming harder to justify the contract at the current price. Councilman Randy Greene said he felt the City shouldn’t be paying more than the contract is worth but also said HAPRA is an important organization and thought it would be the wrong time to cut $20,000 funding. He felt they should give one year notice and then take over operations versus just cutting it off or renegotiate a new contract.

It was stated the City could possibly contract for certain functions and take over others. Council ultimately decided to defer the item for future discussions and directed the manager to work with staff and the Authority on revisions to the contract. Photo: Google Street View.