Last Thursday morning, members of the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Advisory Board (BORCAB) met to discuss Bay Oaks’ budget for the coming year and mulled over options that they asked member Dave Anderson to take to Town Council at their meeting on Monday night.
“We’re here because we all love Bay Oaks and I’d like us to remove our emotions and look at the numbers dispassionately in order to come up with solutions,” Anderson began. “The total income for the entire campus is down about 30% from last year and I don’t think we’re going to be able to cut expenses much more – especially at the pool, where there is very little wastage and where we’ve seen a decrease of 50% in the payroll.”
Anderson had some ideas that came across as a bit drastic to the rest of the committee, including farming out some of the programs to churches and to other nearby recreation centers like Wa-Ke-Hatchee (by Lexington Middle School).
“I’m cognizant of the fact that the Town has a limited pot of money for Bay Oaks, and it may take us 5 to 7 years to get our numbers up,” Dave continued. “We are also faced with things beyond our control – annual rentals on the island, which bring the families who use Bay Oaks, are down as property owners make the switch to seasonal rentals or sell. Home prices are rising, which means many young families are priced out and can’t afford to buy on the island, either.”
Anderson’s idea of farming out programs were met with opposition.
“We can’t do that with the senior program – they’d never come back,” said Councilmember Tracey Gore – BORCAB’s liaison to Council. “There are missed opportunities – I’ve talked to the City of Sanibel, and they have a 1/3 split with the School Board and Lee County to fund their rec center.”
Member Becky Bodnar pointed out that the campus has no director, and Rae Ann Sprole said there used to be events at Bay Oaks that brought in revenue.
“What were we doing then that we’re not doing now? In its heyday, this place was amazing,” she said. “Maybe we need corporate sponsors.”
Tracey said she’s tired of ‘always seeing Bay Oaks on the chopping block’.
“There are other things in the budget we can cut besides Bay Oaks,” she said.
Another member suggested having fewer part-time employees and trying to increase revenue with Bay Oaks’ current full-time staff.
As far as community awareness, Town Administrative Services Director Maureen Rischitelli said that the Town has heard loud and clear from the community that they want Bay Oaks to remain funded.
At the end of the meeting, Anderson agreed to ask Town Council for the following: a full-time director, to look into how Sanibel does its 3-way split, to ask the newly-formed Friends of Bay Oaks and the Beach Pool for help with marketing and to engage a commission-based marketing group to search for a large sponsor.
At Monday night’s Council meeting, Anderson spoke during Committee Members’ Items and brought those possible solutions to Council. At the end of the meeting, Councilmember Rexann Hosafros asked Interim Town Manager Jim Steele to meet with Anderson to discuss them. At press time, that meeting had yet to take place.
Two days after the meeting, Gore sent an email to Rischitelli, Steele, members of BORCAB and the full-time staff at Bay Oaks saying that ‘BORCAB’s efforts to replace the Director position is being worked in the budget’.
“The county’s Estero boulevard construction, the town’s drinking waterline replacement, and the town’s new stormwater plan, and all the increasing fees going up to residents due to all of this is becoming a huge debate on the island, and I don’t want you to think that Bay Oaks Rec/Pool and its needs will get lost in that mess,” Gore wrote. “Previous poor planning and management of those projects should not affect the needs of Bay Oaks Rec and Pool.”
Keri Hendry Weeg