Prairie Village backs away from proposal to eliminate Parks & Rec, Environmental committees

The Prairie Village Environmental Committee helps organize the annual Earth Fair at SM East.

The Prairie Village City Council has approved a set of revisions its committee structure, but backed away from a proposal that would have eliminated the long-standing Environmental and Parks and Recreations committees.

The city has for the past several years had a group tasked with reviewing its committee structure and making recommendations about how to most efficiently staff and give tasks to groups of volunteers responsible for various aspects of city functions.

At a meeting earlier this month, city staff presented a set of recommendations that would have replaced the Environmental and Parks and Recreations committees with a concept called the “Prairie Village Volunteer Corps,” a standing roster of residents who would be available to work on events and projects.

Oversight of Parks and Recreation issues would have been transitioned to a new Parks Committee made up entirely of sitting members of the city council. The Environmental Committee would have been disbanded, with members encouraged to work on an ad hoc group focused on the community gardens and to work with the Johnson County Environmental Committee.

“[The group] believes the proposed recommendations will increase involvement and inclusion of more residents interested in volunteering for and engaging with the City, will focus volunteers on specific needs and initiatives identified by the governing body, eliminate the redundancy of tasks being worked on by multiple committees, staff, and/or the governing body, and enable our committee volunteers and city staff to be more efficient in accomplishing tasks,” read a memo from city staff on the proposal.

But the prospect of eliminating those groups, which have a number of long-serving members, generated a wave of pushback. One resident emailed to say it was a “slap in the face.” Several came to the first February council meeting to speak against it.

On Monday, Assistant City Administrator Jamie Robichaud presented an updated set of recommendations which did not include the elimination of the Environmental Committee or the Parks and Recreation Committee as currently configured.

Among the most significant changes in the updated committee policy is the move to have the chair and vice chair of both the Parks and Recreation and Environmental Committees be sitting members of the city council. Both the chair and the vice chair of the committees will be voting members.