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Proposal Combines Departments To Improve Children's Services

Jenna Carlesso

May 06, 2011

In nearly a year as mayor, Pedro Segarra has consolidated several city offices in an effort to streamline government operations and save money.

Now the mayor is seeking another consolidation, this one designed to improve the quality of life for children and families.

Proposals now being considered by the city council would establish a new Department of Children, Families and Recreation by combining services now performed by separate departments. The Office for Young Children, Office of Youth Services and the Recreation Division would merge to form the new department. The department would include an additional $500,000 for its summer youth employment program.

Segarra said the idea is to connect more families with the programs and services they need.

"I'm trying to prioritize," he said. "Recreation is a much-needed service, and we didn't have a department that specifically services families."

The goals of the department would be to increase participation in youth programs and the Police Activities League, Segarra said. The mayor laid out some of those objectives in his proposed 2011-12 budget, which would include a projected increase in the number of at-risk youths involved in programs currently run by the Office of Youth Services and the number of children engaged in activities designed to prepare them for employment.

Enrollment of at-risk youth would jump from 650 to 750 in fiscal 2011-12, according to the mayor's budget, while the number of youths participating in employment activities would increase from 1,075 to 1,250.

Residents also will have easier access to programs and activities through a revamped website, Segarra said. The redesigned site, due to launch after the 2011-12 budget is adopted, will feature a section with program and event listings, he said.

"Information about the Boys and Girls Clubs, church programs and recreational opportunities will be online," Segarra said. "We have a lot going on, but a lot of times it's not communicated, and families don't know what's available," he said.

Some city council members have said that Jose Colon-Rivas, executive director of the Office for Young Children, would lead the new department, but a spokeswoman for the mayor said it was premature to comment on who might be chosen.

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said he supports many of the mayor's ideas, but would have liked to have seen other consolidations.

"My disappointment with this budget is that there weren't mergers in services with the board of education," he said. For instance, Kennedy said, finance personnel and public works services could be shared between the city and school board.

The city has until May 31 to adopt a final budget.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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