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Merger on hold, director let go Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Jul 07 2012 12:00 PM

Chula Vista's plan to merge the library department with the department of parks and recreation was delayed following a contentious City Council meeting last week where unhappy residents shared their displeasure with city leaders.

The move, which was proposed by Councilman Rudy Ramirez in June, was designed to cut personnel costs and divert those savings to parks and recreation programs.

Ramirez claimed that by eliminating director Buck Martin’s position the city would have saved $200,000 to $300,000 in salary and benefits costs.

However, after hours of discussion last Thursday the City Council voted unanimously to take six months to allow the idea of a merger to be vetted.

Martin was terminated and his last day with the city was June 21. Library Director Betty Waznis has taken over supervising both departments. The council directed City Manager Jim Sandoval to recruit an assistant director to help Waznis oversee parks and recreation.

Sandoval said only with a professional assistant director could the merged departments be successful.

“It would give Betty the opportunity to focus on her specialty, which is library services, but also work on collaboration between the two different functions,” he said.
Waznis agreed.

“I do feel an assistant to the recreation director would be critical for the consolidation to succeed,” she said.

“Recruiting and hiring an individual with professional education, a nationally-recognized credential, positive track record and progressively responsible experiences in recreation management is the best bet for success in this new structure.”

Mark Liuag, one of three residents who sent a letter to the city last week alleging three Brown Act violations, said the vote to consolidate the departments excluded the public from the process.

“Some of the items could have been constructed outside the budget with consensus and we weren’t afforded that (opportunity to discuss),” Liuag said.

Chula Vista Olympic Training Center director Tracy Lamb told the council the merger was about more than how the city conducts its business.

“I’ve heard different reasons (to merge the departments) to cut bureaucracy,” Lamb said. “Bureaucracy isn’t people — it’s process.”

Following public comment, Ramirez said he felt the need to explain.

“I’ve thought about Buck Martin,” Ramirez said. “…I’ve thought and considered the impact to the organization … it wasn’t something I was looking forward to, to tell you the truth.”

Sandoval said an assistant director would cost approximately $30,000 less than Martin’s previous salary, with a totalsavings of approximately $61,000, including time passed to find an assistant director.

Martin’s severance package was $143,531.67 and included a $6,435.48 vacation pay-out.

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