Summertime means hiring seasonal, part-time help while the weather’s nice in the Midwest. Most municipalities budget for that extra help.
Michael Hardy, parks and recreation director for the city of Baraboo, Wis., hires 60 to 75 people during the summer months, typically between April 1 and Labor Day. Fifteen of them, on average, will be lifeguards for Baraboo’s pool. The parks department also hires seasonal help for the city’s children’s summer recreational program. In May, he planned to hire 40 extra people for the recreational program and six more people for the parks alone. The city’s new tennis courts will also require seasonal help.
He said the economy has had some effect on his budget, but not much.
“It’s been more difficult, but I typically try to plan it so it covers my expenses,” he said. However, he added that the department has had to cut some programs.
For instance, Hardy cut the summer program by one day and instead is having the programs run from Monday to Thursday instead of five days a week. He’s also planning to have camping and mountain biking trips around the city rather than going out to Devils Lake State Park.
In Madison, the parks department hires, on average, 255 seasonal employees. Most coming in the spring and summer, including laborers, lifeguards and attendants who mow, clean park shelters, golf courses, pool, beaches and cemeteries and work during special events.
For three years that level of hiring has stayed consistent, so parks administrators try to schedule those employees in an effective and efficient manner. They’re crosstrained and encouraged to work as a team, said Community Relations Coordinator Laura Whitmore. For example, if the cemetery has a large project that requires more staff than they have assigned to them, other sections will assign their staff to assist until that project is complete.
A recession doesn’t affect one portion of a budget but rather the whole thing, Whitmore pointed out. Madison responded by working on ways to be more efficient in everything they do. When filling up the outdoor pool, for example, they allow ambient air to start warming up the water rather than turning on the heater right away. That saved the department thousands of dollars. The staff has also been systemically upgrading old electrical and heating systems and lighting to more efficient systems. And rather than printing most of their marketing materials, they send them electronically.
“We also look for partners to help us achieve our goals — whether it’s another city department, volunteers, another nonprofit or a for-profit company. These partnerships have
allowed us to continue to meet and exceed expectations in our community,” she said.
According to Communications and Marketing Manager Dawn Sommers of the Minneapolis, Minn., Park and Recreation Board, when fully staffed, that board has between 1,200 and 1,500 temporary employees. Those numbers fluctuate depending on the time of year, weather and seasonal operations.
“Summer is our peak period of staffing, with the greatest demand for seasonal maintenance and recreation employees,” she said. “Our 2012 numbers are comparable to 2011.”
“Our annual operating budget has historically included temporary staffing. Our seasonal temporary workforce is instrumental in delivering services to the residents of Minneapolis and park visitors from the region, country and world,” she said. “The recession has resulted in a more robust pool of applicants for our staffing needs.”
Unlike most municipalities, the 129-year-old Minneapolis park system is not managed by the city of Minneapolis and is not a city department. Its nine-member board of commissioners is an independently elected, semiautonomous body responsible for maintaining and developing the Minneapolis park system to meet the needs of citizens of Minneapolis. Members oversee a nationally-acclaimed system of 182 properties, which serve 18 million visits each year.
Sommers said Minneapolis Park Board’s seasonal workforce is diverse and reflects the demographics of the city. It’s also a primary provider of teen employment opportunities within the city of Minneapolis, she noted.
“Our award-winning Teen Teamworks employment program not only provides jobs, but also educational, mentoring and life skill-building components,” she said.
The Des Moines, Iowa, Parks and Recreation Department employs considerably fewer seasonal workers. Its labor force consists of 97 full-time and approximately 213 seasonal employees, said Jen Fletcher, marketing supervisor and media contact for the city. Joliet, Ill., puts seasonal, temporary employees on duty in a water park, golf courses and in summer programs for children. There are a total of 71 parks in Joliet.