On Thursday morning, Administrative Director Maureen Rischitelli presented the Bay Oaks Recreational Center Advisory Board with Town staff’s ‘Snapshot of Operations’ at Bay Oaks and the pool and asked for the committees’ input as to what items they’d like to see prioritized for capital improvements, how they’d like to proceed with lands being used by Bay Oaks but actually owned by the Lee County School Board, what programming they’d like to continue and their thoughts on corporate sponsorship.
School Board Land
BORCAB members seemed a bit surprised, as Town Council had been earlier in the week, to learn how much land at Bay Oaks is actually owned by another entity. Member Dave Anderson cautioned that continuing to use those areas may bring up a serious liability question. Charlie Whitehead, representing Beach Little League, explained that Little League’s insurance covers their players so that is not an issue
“I think we need to meet with the school board to see if they are interested in selling or leasing that property to us so we can gain control over it,” Anderson said. “Them telling us ‘we can use it’ won’t work.” The rest of the committee agreed, and decided to meet with the school board and asked Rischitelli for more information regarding cost.
Chair Betty Simpson said she remembers when the Town negotiated to take over Bay Oaks from Lee County in 2009, when the county set aside $490,000 to replace the roof. Rischitelli replied that the Town still has that money, though $90,000 was spent on ‘something’, but she’s not sure what.
“I remember that (former Parks and Recreation Director) Randy Norton awarded a bid to get the gymnasium floor replaced last year – what happened to that?” Anderson asked, and Maureen replied that Randy neglected to look at other elements – such as ADA compliance – when he proposed that bid.
“We also need to make sure we have a floor that addresses all programming needs,” she said. “So we are in limbo until all of that is figured out.”
The committee asked Council liaison Tracey Gore to request that they set up some kind of reserve to fund ‘emergencies’, such as when a pump breaks in the pool or something needs to be replaced.
Rischitelli proposed opening Bay Oaks on Sundays during the same hours as the pool (noon-6pm), saying it would cost approximately $300/$400 a day. The committee members liked the idea, saying they’d like to ‘try it out’ next summer but only if they could get some kind of programming in place to ensure it was successful.
Member Becky Bodnar wanted to know if the Town plans on replacing Norton’s position as Parks & Rec Director, saying she believes that one person needs to be in charge. Rischitelli replied that it is the decision of Town Manager Don Stilwell to continue with a ‘team approach’.
Maureen pointed out that most off-site programming is operating at a loss, and said staff plans to return to BORCAB with options for 50%, 75% and 100% recovery of costs. Member Rae Sprole asked if she could determine a 26% recovery option, too, as that ‘is the standard for parks and recreation’.
“The programs will never break even,” Sprole said. “That’s not the point of parks and rec.”
Rischitelli replied that BORCAB will need to determine what percentage of programs will meet that 26% and which ones will generate a full recovery.
“You also need to look at how much you want to subsidize your after school and summer camp programs,” she said. “Staff will be returning with more information on that soon.”
No one on the committee seemed particularly thrilled with the option of renaming things like the pool and ball fields after corporations, and Whitehead reminded them that the ball fields are currently named for people who contributed greatly to Bay Oaks. Member Denise Monahan said she has visited other recreation centers and discovered a way to invite corporate sponsorship without being as intrusive as renaming the pool. She agreed to provide the rest of the committee with a list of what those other centers do.
The meeting continued beyond our press time with several items still to be discussed, including a proposal to look into creating a special taxing district for Bay Oaks and the pool. Check the Sand Paper for an update next week.
Keri Hendry Weeg