Merger of Manatee County parks, natural resources departments means layoffs for 5 employees

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 9, 2013 

MANATEE -- Five employees were notified Tuesday they would be laid off as a result of a merger of two Manatee County departments, a county official said.

The merger of the Parks and Recreation Department and Natural Resources Department will save about $250,000 a year, said Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator.

The new entity, called the Parks and Natural Resources Department, will be led by current Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker, according to a letter Hunzeker sent to county commissioners.

It is unclear where Cindy Turner, director of parks and recreation, would fit into the new arrangement, Hunzeker said after a county commission meeting at which he announced the changes.

"It's under discussion," Hunzeker said.

All five layoffs involve Parks Department employees, he said.

Turner was unavailable for comment late Tuesday.

The merger is designed to cross-promote some of the area's most popular public amenities: a Parks and Recreation Department that offers green space and athletic opportunities to hundreds of local families, and a Natural Resources Department, which maintains nearly 30,000 acres of the region's most popular conservation lands, according to Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator.

All programming, athletic leagues and recreational opportunities will remain intact under the new department, he said.

The transition comes at a time when many county parks are passive in nature, much like Manatee's conservation lands, Hunzeker said.

He predicted under Hunsicker's leadership, "we will accomplish a truly global view" of recreational amenities, and could also put to greater use the Natural Resource Department's volunteer network, which provides thousands of hours of donated time to the county each year.

The combined departments are expected to create efficiencies at beaches, boat ramps and other outdoor recreational areas, officials said.

The county Property Management Department, led by Director Charlie Bishop, will take over parks maintenance, they said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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