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Tuscaloosa city leaders consider cutting ties with PARA

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Tuscaloosa County's Parks and Recreation Authority, also known as PARA, offers 35 parks, six activity centers, an 18-hole golf course and more. But city and county leaders are considering splitting up the agency.

City leaders planned to take over maintenance of at least two parks, with the goal of eventually creating the city's own operation. They believe PARA relies too heavily on city funds.

PARA's Director Gary Minor said if the city were to pull out, it would hurt everyone else in the county, because they would be forced to spend a lot more money to use the PARA facilities.

Kristen Howard said she was surprised to find out it might her more to visit the Faucette Brothers Activity Center if the city pulled its funding.

"This is a budget-friendly park to come to, hang out and play," Howard said, "The more the price goes up, the more your everyday Joe can't come."

The City of Tuscaloosa puts in four million dollars, while the Tuscaloosa County contributes three million. The City of Northport pays $350,000 annually.

Mayor Aaron said they are small players in the issue, adding Northport does not plan to cut ties with PARA.

Minor said PARA is one of the lowest funded parks and recreation agencies in the state. He pointed out it would be difficult for the City of Tuscaloosa to achieve the same amount of efficiency going it alone.

"We're going to do a good job and be positive, keep our nose to the grindstone and provide a good value for the customers and community," Minor said, "The elected officials have to get together and make those big decisions, but we'd prefer to stay together."

Some city leaders said they have not closed the door to reaching an agreement with PARA, but they want to agency to be more fairly funded.

"Hopefully we will continue joint funding in the future, that would be my goal," Council President Cynthia Almond said, "At a minimum, we need to decide how important parks and recreation is for our community and how much we are willing to fund it."

PARA was recently awarded one of the best parks and recreation agencies in the state.



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