Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, has introduced a plan that could turn the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board into an advisory committee, and give the board's full power to parks director Nancy Merrill. Schroeder said he won't move forward with the plan if Merrill is able to enact the changes to parks announced in a news conference last week. Merrill and Gov. Butch Otter are proposing $4.5 million in cuts to the parks department, including 25 layoffs.
Schroeder said there have been financial and managerial problems at the parks department during the past year. "I'm not going to allow the state board to cut her off at the knees and not allow her to press forward as the governor's articulated and as I think should be done," Schroeder said. "This is a very strong message that we're sending today. We want a parks department. We want to allow director Merrill to institute the changes that are necessary to make it successful. If that's not allowed to happen, we would transfer the power from the board to the director."
Currently, the board appoints the parks director, but Schroeder's proposal would give the governor power to appoint the director.
Schroeder said he's touched based with all the key players, discussing his measure with Otter's staff and Merrill. Schroeder chairs the Senate Resource and Environment Committee, where he introduced the legislation.
The six-member Idaho Parks and Recreation Board will meet next week in Boise. Their agenda includes discussing Otter's budget recommendations and meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol.
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