Monday, August 07, 2006

Ft. Lauderdale to replace park rangers with security guards

The city of Fort Lauderdale is considering firing its staff of six park rangers and replacing them with a dozen private security guards. The change would save the city $100,000 a mere .02% of the city's $452 million budget (this represents 2% of the parks department's $5 million budget). I am sure that there won't be any change in the quality of services offered despite the fact that these guards will be paid one quarter of the salary of a ranger (security companies, like most temp agencies retain approximately 50% of the rate charged to clients). Hey, it seems to work great in the malls, so why not do it in the parks?

Park rangers' future shaky (

Fort Lauderdale city commissioners completed a request for a proposal this week to find a private security firm that could either beef up or possibly take over the decades-old park ranger program. The goal is to save the city money.


This isn't the first time the rangers have been threatened with layoffs. In 2003, amid the city's financial crisis, commissioners reduced the ranger workforce from 12 to six -- a relatively small staff to oversee Fort Lauderdale's nearly 70 parks.

For Shefferman, the transition was tough. ''You couldn't always get [done] what you needed to,'' he said. ``You go between three parks a shift and make sure people are happy and safe.''

Park patron Matt Weiss spends much of his time in the expansive Holiday Park on Sunrise Boulevard.

He is the president of Fort Lauderdale Holiday Park Youth Baseball and Softball, which hosts about 700 players.

''We have a lot of drug dealing and prostitution [at Holiday Park],'' he said. 'The rangers take a lot of pride and care in making sure our kids are safe. I wonder if a private guard would make those kinds of rounds and have [the rangers'] attitude.''

According to the city's 2006-2007 budget, which will be approved in September, park rangers cost $740,948 for 10 full-time positions and five part-time. A private firm might be able to provide twice as many guards for at least $100,000 less, said Mayor Jim Naugle, stressing that the hunt for a security firm doesn't mean that the city will actually hire one.


''This is a means to explore our options and what the cost difference would be,'' he said. ``From what I understand, a ranger makes $67,000 a year. If we can get someone to do the same job for less, we should.''

Sanford Smith, a ranger for 16 years, says he makes less than $40,000. The Sunrise father says he always keeps an eye peeled for suspicious activity in Holiday Park.

''There's a personal investment,'' he said. ``This is my home, too. I live in the area and I care.''

Rangers also work with police and fire-rescue, using the department's dispatch system for emergencies. That relationship came in handy on Tuesday when a ranger found a young woman in the park who had apparently tried to kill herself by drinking two bottles of rubbing alcohol.

''The ranger went up to her to see how she was, how she was responding,'' said ranger supervisor Bryan Greene, 32. ``We had rescue workers here immediately.''

Greene's top pay, he said, is $43,000. ''I don't know who's making a lot of money doing this job,'' he said. ``People do it because they want to help.''

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