MetroParks to Erie County: We'll do it our way

HURON TWP. Erie MetroParks has split up with Erie County's government. The park syste
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Erie MetroParks has split up with Erie County's government.

The park system is handling all of its finances itself, rather than using the county auditor's office.

Park officials say the "divorce" is amicable, adding they received good service from the auditor's office. They say they wanted to make it clear the park system is separate from county government, and they also hope to speed up financial transactions.

The main change is purchase orders, payroll and other financial tasks once handled by the county auditor's office are now duties of park officials.

The three-member park board approved the change last summer, and it went into effect this year.

Stephen Dice, executive director of the park system, said the change was already in the works when he came on board in late 2007, although he agrees with it.

Park officials want to assert their independence from county government, Dice said.

Parties in litigation with the park system have sometimes sent documents by mistake to the county commissioners, and citizens concerned with park policies sometimes think the commissioners have the final say, rather than the park board.

Sara Lippus, financial administrator for Erie MetroParks, said the new system eliminates a second set of eyes to check the park system's work.

"It was nice to have them look over things a second time," Lippus said, referring to employees at the auditor's office. "There were occasional errors they caught."

But the change also means transactions can be carried out faster. Vendors can now be paid in as few as two days, rather than a couple of weeks.

Lippus said she plans to write to the park system's suppliers, asking them if they can offer the park system a discount in return for being paid more quickly.

Tom Paul, the county auditor, said the change will reduce some of the workload for his office, but the difference won't be dramatic enough to reduce his staff.