Park PatrolsWith more than 3,000 acres of parks and recreation land, Fayetteville faced at least three major security problems: big kids picking on little kids; vandals damaging or destroying park properties and plantings; and groups gathering in one fairly secluded park.
Obviously, hiring enough police officers to patrol the city's 29 parks was beyond the city's resources. The solution that has worked is a combination of police and civilian park patrols, concentrating only on problem areas.
The city bought a four-wheel-drive vehicle and painted it with a Park Police logo. At first, different officers patrolled the outlying parks only as they got time away from other duties, but the program proved so successful in cutting down on vandalism and other problems that the police chief wound up assigning one officer to permanent park patrol duty.
In a related move, the parks department hired four University of Arkansas students on a part-time basis to keep an eye on the parks where kids tended to congregate. These park "Chipmunks" (as other city employees called them) were able to keep bullying behavior to a minimum. The Chipmunks, in addition, checked restrooms to be sure they were secure, turned on lights as needed and performed other routine daily tasks. They also had the added, and unanticipated, effect of cutting down on vandalism and other problems by reporting potential problems to police who could then respond. The Chipmunks are now under the direction of, and work closely with, the police department. Off season, they patrol the downtown square to minimize damage to the city's extensive Christmas lights display. In addition to foot patrol, the Chipmunks use a radio-equipped, out-of-service police car to patrol the parks.
Total cost of the programs, including the two vehicles, has been less than $70,000.
Volunteer Programs in ParksFayetteville owns more than 3,000 acres of park and recreational land, including three lakes. Much of this public land is, however, undeveloped, and some is all but inaccessible.
In an effort to make the parks more usable, the city challenged citizens to help improve the parks. The volunteer response has been amazing.
Several local companies, service clubs and University of Arkansas fraternities and sororities have taken on clean-up and small projects at various city parks. For instance, one group built picnic tables for a small wooded park just off one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Another group holds a clean-up at centrally located Wilson Park just before the annual Pops in the Park concert in July.
The city also has a "Park Wish List" that outlines both needed projects and individual items, ranging from such things as a park bench to more expensive things like slides and flower beds. It also has an Adopt-A-Park program which allows individuals or groups to donate time or money to a particular park.
There is no way to put a dollar value on the worth of these volunteer efforts. In any case, the greatest benefit is not monetary; it is the sense of community which citizen involvement creates.
One important way to cut down on government expenses is to have healthy workers. Fayetteville has initiated three employee wellness programs since 1989. These are offered at no cost to city workers. Last year, total cost to the city was less than $3,100 to serve more than 300 employees.
Health Fair An annual employee health fair is in its third year. In 1994, about 100 of the city's 400 employees attended. Local health professionals donate their time for the event, screening cholesterol levels, blood pressure and vision. Employees may also test muscle strength and general fitness through a series of exercises.
Over the years, several employees have first learned of health problems at the fair and sought advice from their personal physicians. The fair also makes available literature on various health-related topics such as smoking, diet, stress, exercise and mental health. This year's fair cost the city about $960, including the price of lunch for volunteer health professionals.
Flu Shots The city for the past three years has offered flu shots for its employees through arrangements with a local clinic. Last year, 147 workers took advantage of the program. Costs were $1,176.
Counseling Fayetteville also provides psychological counseling through its employee assistance program. The program, which allows employees up to five free sessions a year, is open to both city workers and their immediate families. A local counseling center provides services to the city under contract, charging a flat $30 per visit. During 1994, the counseling center reported 65 visits from city employees or family members. Total costs were $1,950.
Contact: Phyllis Rice, (501) 575-8279
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.