Park district will likely discuss caretakers

At next week’s Vashon Park District board meeting, commissioners are expected to consider the issue of caretakers in Vashon parks, vetting whether the district should prohibit full-time maintenance workers from also serving as  live-in caretakers. Two workers currently have this arrangement.

The issue has been discussed at previous meetings, including at the most recent meeting on April 23, when it was tabled following a sometimes heated discussion.

According to park district manager Elaine Ott, the board raised the issue as part of an internal evaluation of its arrangements with employees. One concern, she said, is how a disciplinary issue or a problem with the employee in his or her role as a maintenance worker would affect his or her caretaker position and visa versa.

Also at issue are legal concerns about overtime. Ott sought expert advice from several sources on the issue, she said, including from the department of Labor and Industries and the district’s insurance company.

The issue, she said, is gray.

“We want to make sure we are 100 percent above board,” she added.

While the board will consider this issue as a policy matter, any decisions will affect the two people who work for the district  as maintenance workers and caretakers: Scott Provost at Paradise Ridge and Eric Wyatt at Point Robinson.

At the last meeting, Provost expressed frustration that he had not been notified that the subject was on the agenda and stressed that the board’s decision could have large implications for him and his family, who own a manufactured home on park district land.

In the course of the meeting, Provost said that he has been a full-time maintenance worker for 17 years and has lived at the park for 15. At Point Robinson, Wyatt has served as the caretaker for three years and lives in a residence at the park, according to Joe Wubbold, the president of the Keepers of Point Robinson. Wyatt began working as a maintenance worker for the district part-time last fall and transitioned to full time in January, according to Jason Acosta, the park district’s maintenance supervisor.

At the most  recent meeting, Ott put forward a potential solution to address the legal concerns. Currently caretakers live rent-free in exchange for their labor. Under one possible alternative, Ott said caretakers could be charged rent and their work and compensation be set to equal their rent payments.

After much discussion, commissioner David Hackett moved to table the issue, saying he wanted more time to think before voting. The motion passed 4-1, with commissioner Bill Ameling dissenting.

Ott said she is not certain if the board will vote next week, but she believed the issue would be discussed.

Wubbold said he hopes the issue will be discussed — and resolved.

“I intend for this to be an agenda item, and I hope for some resolution with which we can go forward,” he said.

The next park board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Ober Park.

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