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Young questions lack of minority participation in rec center consulting

The Colorado-based consultants would fly to city and conduct sessions with Rec and Park staff and sponsor a leadership summit

Above: Rec and Parks wants a Colorado firm help it identify its core values and mission. The Madison Square Rec Center serves the low-income Oliver neighborhood.

A consulting contract to help the Recreation and Parks Department define its “values, vision, mission and core businesses” was held up today when City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young questioned the absence of minority participation.

Approval of the $53,000 contract to Colorado-based GreenPlay LLC was deferred for one week at Young’s request during the Board of Estimates’ pre-meeting, which takes place before the public meeting.

While miniscule compared to many consulting agreements – last week, for example, the spending panel approved $2.5 million for roadway paving consultants – Young was concerned that there was no minority participation in the Rec and Parks agreement, his spokesman, Lester Davis, said this afternoon.

The city requires 27% minority and 10% women-owned business participation in public contracts. The city’s rec centers and parks serve an overwhelming African-American clientele.

Paperwork accompanying the Rec and Parks request, reviewed by The Brew, asserted that the contract could not be “segmented” to include minority and women’s participation. This was partially because the consultant uses “proprietary methodologies and tools” to assess the success of recreation programs and facilities.

Cost Recovery Strategies

In a letter to the agency, Greenplay’s Chris Dropinski summed up the purpose of the contract as “you are looking to reactivate the department” to be “much more purposeful in what you are providing” to the public.

GreenPlay said it would concentrate on helping senior staff  identify duplicative efforts at city rec centers and develop “pricing and cost recovery strategies.”

In short, the consultant – who plans to fly in several members from Denver to work for several days at a time in Baltimore – will pursue the “privatization” plan favored by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and outlined in a 2011 report by a mayoral task force.

The plan to close or turn over to private operators as many as 20 inner-city rec centers has been highly controversial. The two of the plan’s principal architects – department director Gregory Bayor and chief of recreation Bill Tyler – left the agency after brief tenures (here and here).

Delayed City Audit

Rec and Parks is currently undergoing the first audit in at least 25 years by the City Comptroller’s office.

The audit, originally planned to be released last summer, has been delayed due to various problems in assembling financial data for City Auditor Robert McCarty. The bulk of the audit has been completed, but has not been publicly released.

Ernest W. Burkeen Jr., appointed as agency director 14 months ago, requested that the Board of Estimates approve the GreenPlay contract as part of what he called a master plan for community centers for youth and adults.

GreenPlay, established in 1999, provides consulting, community outreach, strategic planning and staff training to park, recreation and open-space agencies around the country.

The group said it plans to hold a “leadership summit” with community leaders and government agencies in Baltimore to focus on a long-term plan to better serve the city’s recreation needs.

Under the proposed contract, three principals of GreenPlay would each be paid $150 an hour by the city.

The consulting salaries would amount to no more than $44,100, the contract states, while travel and hotel expenses would total about $9,000.

The group’s proposal suggests that the company expects to be retained by Rec and Parks after the initial contract expires in a year.

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