Members of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday night issued a formal rejection of a plan to consolidate the Recreation Department with the Public Works Department and to dissolve their commission in favor of one without statutory power.

Commissioner Joseph Ballerine, after accusing Trustee Lonnie Sacchi of making a power play to seize control of public park lands, made two separate motions to reject the plan. The commission was unanimous in its 4-0 votes. Commissioner Ellen Herda was absent from the meeting.

“You’re trying to take away our jurisdiction of parks, which is something you’ve been after for 12 years,” Ballerine told Sacchi, who attended the meeting along with Village President Michael Gorman. “To fabricate this $53,000 savings … no one’s going to buy that.”

Sacchi denied the charge that he wanted to control the use of public park lands.

“This is about unifying maintenance of all the public lands,” Sacchi said. “I see a bigger pool of seasonals to choose from. This isn’t about taking parks away from kids.”

Members of the commission didn’t wait long to interject skepticism about the plan into Sacchi’s explanation of why he thought the change made sense. Sacchi started by claiming that the change would save the village $53,000 annually, but was immediately rebutted by commissioners, who stated that savings came from the departure of former recreation Director Laure Kosey.

He then explained that moving the recreation department under public works would make maintenance more efficient. Village Manager Peter Scalera, Sacchi said, wants to use seasonal workers year round. Placing the department under public works would streamline how seasonal workers are used, he said.

“Rather than shift seasonals around to departments, if they’re under control of the public works director, he can plug them in where they’re needed,” Sacchi said. “The public works director will have to understand the priority. If there’s a maintenance need, like ballfield maintenance, then it has to get done, because that makes the village money.”

But Ballerine attacked that idea, charging that in the past year public works did not do a good job with field maintenance. He also called for a seasonal employee to be attached directly to the Department of Parks and Recreation during the peak recreation season.

“Have a seasonal dedicated to rec during that time,” Ballerine said. “We’ve been down this road [of public works maintaining parks] and it doesn’t work. The savings isn’t there. The savings is Laure’s salary.”

Gorman said the plan would help the recreation department survive. Under threat for the past 18 months, the department has seen its tax levy cut in half as the village has sought economies in its budget.

The new model, Gorman said, would allow the department to focus on recreational programming instead of maintenance.

But Ballerine rejected that claim, saying that what the recreation department needed in order to survive was a commitment from the village board.

“All we need is the support of the village board,” Ballerine said. “If we have the favor of the board we have no problem.”

Frank Gangware, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, was particularly wary about the plan to dissolve the commission in favor of an advisory board with no oversight over park lands.

“Part of our charge is taking care of the seven park areas and maximizing their utility,” Gangware said. “My personal opinion is that this board and this department have taken better care of park lands than the rest of the village. To me that’s a big issue.”

The village board is expected to take up the issue of the recreation department’s future at a special meeting June 1. Since it appears that the commission was created by ordinance in 1937, it can be dissolved by ordinance by a majority vote of the village board.

“I think you have some real doubters here with the direction you’re going,” Gangware told Sacchi and Gorman on Monday night.