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Former parks director assumed hed be let go
Walker quit after funding cut, privatization explored
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Recent county government exile Greg Walker said he doesn’t have a new job yet, but the former parks director has been looking ever since the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to cut funding to his department.

“Anybody that has any sense at all would have been looking for a job under the circumstances,” Walker said, speaking from his home in Jasper Tuesday.

Walker left his post with the county Monday. The future of his department is still unknown.

Commissioners will likely hear the results of an analysis by at least two nonprofits interested in taking over aspects of the county’s recreation department at their Aug. 9 work session.

If commissioners go the route of privatization, they have until Aug. 31 to make the transition. The current incarnation of the county’s Parks and Leisure Services Department has only been funded through the end of the month.

When four commissioners voted June 30 in favor of a much smaller spending plan, Walker assumed it meant his job had also been cut.

“My direction from (former Interim Finance Director) Lisa Johnsa was ... that we would all be let go,” Walker said Tuesday.

Commissioner Craig Lutz said Monday that if the YMCA or any other nonprofit assumed responsibility for county recreation services, Walker — and most employees in the current recreation department — likely would have been guaranteed a job.

“Even had we privatized it, we would still need someone to manage that contract,” Lutz said Monday. “...We do have to have somebody keeping their finger on the pulse.”

But Walker said Tuesday that if his job was safe, no one ever told him.

“They certainly didn’t let me know that,” Walker said.

Walker also took issue with the two commissioners who said he had not helped with the transformation of the county parks department.

On Monday, both Lutz and Commissioner Ashley Bell blamed the county’s lack of progress on a new recreation plan on Walker’s unwillingness to cooperate with or lead the transition.

“It sounds to me like (Bell was) looking for a scapegoat for the lack of commission planning,” Walker said Tuesday.

Walker spent the last month of his employment with the county providing information about his department to three nonprofits — the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs and Veterans Outreach — whenever it was requested, he said.

County Administrator Randy Knighton also said Monday that he had heard no complaints from the groups about a lack of cooperation from Walker.

“As far as I know, the information had been provided to them in a timely manner,” Knighton said. “I’m not privvy to any discussions that may have signaled something different.”

Walker also said he made a proposal for his department to generate revenue that commissioners never heard. The proposal sought to raise fees to help the department stay solvent until it could determine a better funding solution.

Walker said self-sufficiency through user fees was impossible because it would have made recreation programs cost prohibitive.

“There is not a public recreation parks department in the state of Georgia that is 100 percent self-sufficient,” Walker said.

Walker said he made an official request to put the proposal on the table for discussion at the commission’s July 25 work session, but the item never showed up on the meeting’s agenda.

Though he had nothing but praise for Knighton and other county staff, Walker, who led the county recreation department for three years, said county leaders should have taken a more “academic” approach to the agency’s transformation.

He said he worries about the employees he left behind and the future of the department’s many divisions, including the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center and the Lake Lanier rowing venue.
“There should have been some type of analysis of whether or not what they were offering to do was feasible before they ventured off into doing what they did,” Walker said. “Basically, they have a Plan A. Their Plan A is for the YMCA and the Boys Club to take over ... the stuff that they can do. And Plan B was there was no Plan B. “