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Town may merge recreation and senior departments

The name “Riverhead Recreation and Senior Department” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but residents might soon have to get used to it.

During Thursday’s Town Board work session, recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne suggested merging the town’s senior citizens department with parks and recreation.

While the plan doesn’t include layoffs, he said not replacing upcoming employee retirements in those departments could save the town close to $1 million.

“We feel there are numerous benefits to reorganizing both departments,” Mr. Coyne said. “It would restructure the current staff into a new organizational chart that will enhance both departmental services while saving the town money.”

Mr. Coyne told the Town Board he could have the new system up and running within two months since it involves a reorganization of responsibilities for current employees rather than hiring new staff, adding he has a 30-page analysis of the idea already completed.

Between five and six people in each department plans to retire in the next five years and Mr. Coyne estimates the merger will save the town approximately $180,000 per year in that span.

“This is enhancing services,” he said about the merger. “This won’t take anything away.”

Under the proposed change, the senior department and the parks and recreation department would share resources, including supplies and buses. It would also help expand daytime programs for seniors and an intergenerational program.

“We [the Parks and Recreation Department] need bus transportation for the youth,” he said. “They have bus transportation for the seniors and [the buses] are still there during the day after they’re done with the seniors. They can then jump on and pick up the youth.”

Mr. Coyne also said the merger would add positions to expand the Youth Bureau and give raises to certain employees while still remaining within his projected cost-cutting model. He recommended establishing one department head with one “strong deputy.”

“The current employees of the senior center are underpaid,” he said. “This would probably bump them up.”

Following Mr. Coyne’s presentation, Town Board members appeared to be pleased with the proposal.

Councilman Jim Wooten said he believes it’s a good way to cut costs. Supervisor Sean Walter simply said, “I love this idea.”

Mr. Coyne is expected to present a formal plan to the Town Board.

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