Changes could be coming to the Golf and Cemetery Department following the Mitchell City Council’s approval on Monday of the first reading of an ordinance that merges the division with the department with the Parks and Recreation.

With the council’s 7-1 approval of the first reading on the ordinance to restructure the Golf and Cemetery Department, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell would serve as the new leader of the Lakeview Golf Course and Cemetery, taking on a dual role. The second reading of the ordinance that's slated to be voted on by the council in two weeks will determine whether changes take effect.

Council member Dan Sabers made the lone vote to deny the first reading, but he didn’t discuss his reasoning for the motion to deny.

The restructuring of the Golf and Cemetery Department was proposed by Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson, who said it would allow the city to hire another full-time employee with the duties of solely focusing on the city-owned golf course.

“What we’re doing is modifying that in an effort for savings,” Everson said. “The reason I did this as well is that Parks and Recreation do a lot of the same work as the golf course.”

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In addition, Everson pointed to the annual savings that he says the city will see due to the changes. He said the city will save between $42,444 and $63,953 under the reorganization of the Golf and Cemetery Department.

The proposed changes to the Golf and Cemetery Department come roughly a year after former Golf and Cemetery Director Kevin Thurman retired from the role, capping off a 38-year career. Since Thurman retired in the summer of 2020, Powell has served as the interim Golf and Cemetery Director.

Everson said Lakeview Golf Superintendent Jason Gunnare would still remain in his role, however, he would report to Powell and the mayor.

City Attorney Justin Johnson said the golf course and cemetery would be subject to the oversight of the Golf and Cemetery Board, not the Parks and Recreation Board, which are two separate boards.

According to the city’s 2020 payroll report, Powell earns a yearly salary of $95,543 as the Parks and Recreation Director. With the dual role, Powell's salary will not increase, Everson said.

According to Everson, the golf course management staff believes that "the proposed reorganization would result in more efficient operation." Everson’s memo stated that the restructuring would decrease the number of managers in the department and add a full-time golf specialist with the knowledge and experience of working on a golf course.