Bristol mayor looks to merge Parks & Rec and Youth Services

Published on Monday, 16 September 2019 21:23


BRISTOL - Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu wants to merge the city’s Youth Services Department into the Parks and Recreation Department to save money and streamline services.

The proposal is still under review by both the Parks and Youth commissions, and has already been approved by Parks Superintendent Joshua Medeiros and the Human Resources Department, Zoppo-Sassu told the City Council at its September meeting.

In her proposed organizational chart for the merger, Medeiros would continue to oversee the enlarged Parks and Recreation Department.

Youth Services, housed at 51 High St., provides a variety of services from clinical counseling to outreach work in the schools, manages the Pine Lake Challenge Course, and promotes prevention strategies for youth to avoid substance abuse through its Best-4-Bristol group.

The Youth Services directorship has been vacant since Eileen McNulty retired in June, after 30 years of service. “We would have just one department head, which would save us that salary,” Zoppo-Sassu said.

She said Parks and Recreation currently has three divisions, two of which – Parks, Grounds & Facilities, and Aquatics – would be unaffected by the reorganization. The merger would mean the Recreation Division would absorb the Pine Lake Challenge Course, which is a youth-oriented obstacle course in Pine Lake Park.

In addition, Parks and Recreation would create a new Youth and Family Services division, with a new position for a division supervisor.

The city would be adding some support jobs in order to better deliver services, but overall, the reorganization would result in a net savings of $54,000 a year, Zoppo-Sassu said.

In addition, Bristol Health’s Parent and Child Center is now vacating its offices on Prospect Street and is interested in renting space at 51 High St., she said. “We are interested in renting to them, which would add some additional revenue onto the city books.”

The building already houses a medical practice, which has been renting there for many years, and Youth Services’ clinical counseling would remain there for the time being, she noted.

“We would most likely relocate at least the [Youth Services] recreation division back to City Hall, so the outdoor adventure coordinator and some admin support would come back, and free up some space,” she said. “We have not settled on rental terms, that that needs to be handled by the real estate committee and the corporation counsel’s office.”

Zoppo-Sassu said it’s not well known that Youth Services provides family and individual counseling for students, with many referrals coming from the Bristol public schools. That’s just part of how Youth Services’ functions align with Parks and Rec., she said.

The council referred the issue for further review to its salary, building, and real estate committees. At the suggestion of the city’s corporation counsel, Wyland Clift, the councilors also agreed to refer the issue of renting 51 High St. to the Planning Commission.

Zoppo-Sassu said she hopes the commission and committees could complete their reviews in time for the October council meeting.

“We need to plan for physically moving people,” she said. “We need to do some client referral information, let people know what we’re doing. And there are some issues within City Hall itself that need to be handled in order to be ready to have new staff come back here.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Monday, 16 September 2019 21:23. Updated: Monday, 16 September 2019 21:26.