Town Manager Robert Smith said the town will gather input from the Tree Board and Parks and Recreation Committee before any action is taken.
The town of Windermere is short on volunteers for its Tree Board and Parks and Recreation Committee and is considering dissolving the Tree Board to shift the responsibilities to the Parks and Recreation committee.
Town Manager Robert Smith emphasized the idea was proposed only recently and still is being vetted. The proposal sparked opposition from some Tree Board members, including Theresa Schretzmann-Myers, who expressed her concerns during the March 26 Town Council meeting’s public forum.
“I received an email from our town manager today saying they were basically going to merge the Tree Board’s responsibilities with Parks and Rec — with the idea that the Tree Board should shift the responsibilities to the Parks and Recreation Committee. (Smith said) its members can apply to the Parks and Rec (committee) to fill their vacant seats. The goal is to have everything under Parks and Recreation, as opposed to having two separate committees whose goals are aligned. So I want to say on the record that I’m opposed (to this). I think the Tree Board was set up individually so that we could become a Tree City USA.”
Schretzmann-Myers, who serves on the town’s Historical Preservation Board and Tree Board, said she is concerned about the idea of merging the committees because she believes the mission statements are dissimilar. Moreover, the Tree Board members have undergone years of education regarding tree and horticulture.
“We are advocates for trees, and we’ve spent many long years attending conferences educating ourselves on trees and horticultural science,” she said. “We are educated tree board members. … So I think it’s very important that we keep the committees separate. With all due respect, I think Parks and (Recreation) does a great job on our parks and playgrounds, but they do not educate themselves on our horticulture or attend the Trees Florida conference.”
She recommends the town keep the Tree Board and recruit volunteers to fill the vacant seats for both the Tree Board and Parks and Recreation Committee.
In response, Smith said the idea to merge the two committees, at this point, is just that: an idea.
“It was an idea that was brought and proposed because the Parks and Recreation (committee) and the Tree Board …. all their goals are aligned,” Smith said. “You have one committee that’s made up of four members, including Frank Krens, who was just appointed, and the other is also made up of four members, which also includes Frank Krens. So the idea is to take everything that the Tree Board is doing and put it under the purview of Parks and Recreation. These are discussion items we’re talking about with Parks and Recreation and the Tree Board before we took it to the council to get their thoughts and feelings. So again, this is … coming straight at you guys before we’ve had a chance to vet this out and get the feelings from everybody.”
Smith also said he disagreed with the belief the goals of the two committees were incompatible and explained that if the merger were to occur, the town would make sure to pass amendments to the Parks and Recreation Committee’s mission statements and bylaws.
“I don’t think their missions are not aligned, and if we were to go ahead and move Parks and Rec to take over the responsibilities of the Tree Board, we’d work on amending their mission statement; we’d work on amending their bylaws; we’d work on amending education requirements,” he said. “And that’s not to say that the people currently on the Tree Board would be kicked off — they can apply (to the committee) because that’s the process that we have. And I don’t think Parks and (Recreation) would have an issue with taking on additional members to make them whole as a seven-member group. But again, this is something that is just being vetted out.”
IN OTHER NEWS
- Former Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn was recognized for his 15 years of service and presented with the Key to the City.
- Jim O’Brien was sworn in as the new mayor of the Town of Windermere, and new Town Council members Bill Martini and Liz Andert — as well as re-elected council member Bob McKinley — took their oaths of office.
- Town Manager Robert Smith was evaluated for his the past year’s performance and granted a five-year contract extension and pay increase.
- Frank Krens was appointed to the town’s Parks and Recreation committee.
- Windermere Police Chief David Ogden swore in new reserve officer Patrick Husic. Ogden also promoted Windermere police officer Chip Irwin to the rank of Officer 2.
- School Crossing Guard Patty Sanders received a Longevity of Service award for her 12 years of volunteerism.