County Parks Staff Increase Gets Initial OK

Initial approval to create three new full-time jobs for stewardship of Washtenaw County’s nature preserves was given by the county board of commissioners at their Sept. 4, 2013 meeting.

The positions include: (1) a park laborer with a salary range of $31,507 to $41,766; (2) a park associate/principle planner with a salary range of $40,253 to $61,195; and (3) a stewardship coordinator, with a salary range of $43,373 to $56,586.

The additional jobs reflect a change approved by the county board nearly a year ago. At their Sept. 19, 2012 meeting, commissioners voted to amend the Natural Areas Ordinance No. 128, which established the county’s natural areas preservation program in 2000. The change removed a previous restriction that only 7% of millage funds could be used for management or stewardship. The goal was to use $600,000 per year for management and stewardship. Of that, roughly $240,000 would be used for ongoing stewardship activities, and $360,000 would remain to be invested in a dedicated reserve for long-term land stewardship.

According to a staff memo, the county’s parks system manages more than 4,500 acres of land in 13 parks and 22 preserves. In addition to the 556 acres of property already “actively” managed in the nature preserves, the staff also have active stewardship responsibilities for another 372 acres of prime natural areas within the county parks system. Overall, staff has identified 1,868 acres – or roughly 42% of the system’s current total acreage – as core conservation areas.

Funding for these new positions would be paid for entirely from the countywide natural areas millage, which was initially approved by voters in 2000 and renewed in 2010. The current 0.2409 mill tax raises roughly $3.5 million in annual revenues, and runs through 2021.

A final vote by the board is expected on Sept. 18.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main. A more detailed report will follow: [link]