Park Rangers may not be able to work overtime for much longer.
The Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved a park ranger contract Wednesday that would reduce the number of hours of ranger coverage and save the city of Menlo Park money it uses to operate Bedwell-Bayfront Park.
The new contract would limit the amount of hours that park rangers can work to 40 hours a week.
“Right now it costs about $220,000 to operate the park, and the biggest cost is the ranger salary," said Ruben Nino, assistant director of Public Works for the city of Menlo Park. The city is responsible for maintaining the park and expects the park’s maintenance fund to be depleted in the next four years, without this modification to the park's expenses.
The park hours would remain the same, but the duty of opening , along with maintenance tasks such as cleaning the bathrooms and litter control, will be contracted out to a third party when the current contract ends in June.
The park’s maintenance is primarily funded by the Bayfront Park maintenance fund. But when the rangers work overtime, the city has to pull from the city’s general fund, Nino said. The current situation is not sustainable, he said.
Ranger services cost the city about $134,000 a year, according to Nino. Soon, the rangers will no longer be called park rangers.
“We can probably get a more competitive price by changing the scope of the terminology used to describe the position,” Nino said. The groundskeeper position would change from ranger to a more general services position.
The salary for one of these positions would be in the range of 40-50 thousand per year, said Nino.
Nancy Borgeson is a Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park member who spoke in support of this decision at the Parks and Recreation meeting Wednesday night, which took place in the newly renovated Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, formerly the .
“We now agree to reduced hours of ranger coverage,” Borgeson said. “Reduction is somewhere around half time, which is enough to make a meaningful difference in funding, but still enough time to benefit from their services.”
The Friends opposed the reduction in ranger hours at previous Parks and Recreation meetings. But after meeting with Ruben Nino and David Mooney of the Public Works department, they decided that it would be wise to explore the possibility.
“I think we’d like to have the possibility that if after four to six months, there are problems, that we reserve the right to change our minds,” Borgeson said.
About 500 people use the park on a weekly basis. The motion to approve the contract was made by Commissioner Jim Tooley, and seconded by Commissioner Catherine Carlton.
The city will announce a call for contractor proposal requests in about two weeks. The City Council will decide who gets the contracts.