It was the idea of building of a $7.4 million Gateway super-park that got resident Rod Senior directly involved in Gateway politics back in 2007. Today, GSCDD Supervisor Senior is still fighting against spending money on Gateway’s parks – albeit on a much smaller scale now.

At the February 19, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District, a discussion took place on the subject of new hiring a person whose job it would be to oversee Gateway’s parks and recreational facilities.

At present a GSCDD employee named Elle Harris has this responsibility. But the problem is that Harris is also in charge of Gateway’s natural resources, the lakes and wetlands, overseeing the landscaping as well as helping with safety training.

Everyone agrees that Harris has too much on her plate.

Most of the Supervisors, District Manager Cal Teague and Operations Manager Scott Connell believe that hiring a Recreation Manager for Gateway should be a top priority.

Teague mentioned that Connell has been requesting the GSCDD hire someone for over a year.

“It would be nice to have someone,” agreed Supervisor Pam Gill.

Senior was adamantly opposed to filling that position saying that utilities and lakes should be among the district’s priorities, however, “I don’t see recreation as a GSCDD priority,” said Senior.

Not long after, Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg made her feelings clear.

“I do disagree with you Rod [Senior], in that we do need someone that heads up recreation. The pool, keeping track of the pool, and all the pool attendants and the soccer fields and who’s using them – whatever group it may be,” said Fineberg

Still speaking to Senior, Fineberg continued: “And you may not like to hear this but the pool and the soccer fields are not gonna go away. They’re a big part of this community, so, I think somebody needs to be overseeing those, that they’re being taken care of properly … that they’re being maintained. So I agree with [Teague’s] recommendation that that position needs to be hired,” said Fineberg.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: At that point in the meeting several people had recommended the hiring. The words Fineberg used were “your recommendation” not “Teague’s recommendation”. I believe she was motioning toward Teague but she may have been referring to Gill who sits beside Teague).

At a later point in the board meeting the discussion evolved to general staffing needs, with the Supervisors debating the benefits of hiring a human resources firm to come in and assess the GSCDD’s present staffing situation. Senior repeatedly said that he wanted to hear Connell’s opinion on staffing because Connell would be the person who would ultimately be responsible for the team that’s in place.

“He [Connell] has got to live with that team. And lead it,” noted Senior.

Fineberg took the opportunity to point out what she saw as a contradiction in Senior’s logic.

“Rod, to that point, Cal [Teague] has said that Scott [Connell] has been asking for the [Recreation Manager] position … to be filled,” said Fineberg.

Fineberg’s point was that if Senior trusted Connell’s opinion on staffing so much, why not adhere to Connell’s recommendation that a Recreation Manager be hired? Later in the meeting Connell did say that he feels a Recreation Manager should be hired and that it’s actually already in Gateway’s budget.

Despite Senior’s objections and at the urging of Chairman William Guy, Fineberg made a motion to approve hiring of a Recreation Manager.

Neubauer interjected and said that in order for him to vote in favor of Fineberg’s motion the job description and qualifications of the Recreation Manager position must be properly defined. It was a deal-breaker for him.

Some discussion between Teague, Guy and others occurred saying the job description could be defined by the GSCDD staff and management as part of the hiring process.

Neubauer didn’t want to leave it for chance.

“It’s also a position that’s dealing with the second .. no, the first most important part of what we do. And that’s the people that we serve. They [Recreation Manager] are our first direct line to all those people that are utilizing all of those recreational facilities that Margaret [Fineberg] stated before were so very important in this community. If they’re the first line of that, if they’re the person that’s going to be dealing with the public – that’s critical.” said Neubauer.

The vote to hire a Recreation Manager proceeded with Fineberg, Guy and Gill voting in favor – while Senior and Neubauer voted against.

The motion passed 3-2.

Senior voted against filling the position seemingly because he feels it’s unnecessary, and at the very least he feels the board should wait until the human resources firm comes in and gives their recommendations. For his part, Neubauer voted against it because the job description and qualifications were not specifically outlined in advance of the vote.

The board meeting went on for about half an hour more with the board discussing topics unrelated to the Recreation Manager.

At the end of the session as Chairman Guy was attempting to adjourn the meeting, Senior interrupted Guy to ask about a payment demand the GSCDD had made to Meritus (the GSCDD’s previous management company before they hired Severn Trent) and also Senior wanted to ensure the official record would reflect that Senior voted against hiring the Recreation Manager in today’s vote.

Guy assured Senior that the record would reflect his vote.

The meeting was adjourned.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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