Bossier Parish has been maintaining public parks for years, but the Police Jury is making plans to expand its scope and introduce a full-blown parks and recreation department.
During a parks and recreation committee meeting this week, chairman Mac Plummer said he will ask the jury at its August 5 meeting to approve a budget for the department through the end of 2015 and be prepared to approve a 2016 budget.
“We need to let our director begin to prepare for next year,” Plummer said. “We need to get into all the parks, see what we have and what’s needed and set priorities to begin getting our programs started.”
Parish Administrator Bill Altimus said retired educator Warren Saucier has been hired as director of the department, “…and he’s pretty much a one-man show right now. He has a helper and we’ve set up an office at the south Bossier complex using the old fire station building.”
Some equipment has already been purchased for parks and recreation, and necessary projects at existing parish parks have been identified, Altimus said. Funding for the department will come from a recurring source of revenue and there will be no additional cost to Bossier taxpayers, he told committee members.
“What we’re looking for is guidance from the committee for projects and time frames,” he said.
Committee member Glenn Benton said one project he would like to see considered a priority is the construction of permanent bathroom facilities at Tall Timbers Park on U.S. Hwy. 80.
“We have a couple of port-a-potties down there and I would encourage us to see that situation improved,” he said. “Tall Timbers is probably our most-used park. We have a lot of women and children, birthday parties…we need to build a bathroom facility as soon as possible.”
Benton also said four fields at Lawson “Bo” Brandon Sports Complex in Princeton are currently in use and four new fields there will be ready for next season.
“I think we have a great thing started,” Plummer said. “We know exactly what we will have budgeted. We just need to make it possible to get our director off the mower, acclimated to the parks and taking charge of the projects.”
Altimus urged the committee to identify projects that need to be at the top of the priority list and commit to getting started.
“I would say come up with a specific project and go ahead with it. We can do something now, we have the money to do it…get in, get out and move on down the road,” he said.
Plummer said a parks and recreation department with a director and a staff actively managing projects is something he’s wanted for years.
“It not only adds to the quality of life in Bossier Parish, it is also an important tool for attracting new families,” he said.
Altimus said he envisioned a department that would one day be large and very active.
“I can see this department growing much larger and maintaining many programs year around,” he said. “It might not happen in our lifetimes, but I believe it will happen.”