Thursday, August 20, 2009
Aldermen push for better recreation programs
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen recently inquired about the quality of recreation programs in the city, with the discussion led by alderman-at-large Johnnie Bagley.
She asked parks and recreation director Ken McMullen whether his department has made consistent efforts to find program funds.
“We have to do something for the youth in the city,” she said. “If you need some help finding grants, Don Hollingsworth or Larry Britt have expertise. Talk to them to get help.”
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said the city has been looking for grants for a water park but grants are tight (hard to find) in recreation right now.
Bagley suggested the recreation department should be pulling money into the city for programs and she suggested that admission to little league and T-ball games could be charged and that money could be made off concessions.
“We tried charging and a lot of people got upset,” said DeBerry.
“We’ve got to think of some ways to raise money,” said Bagley.
Public works director Hollingsworth said some effort has been made to get money for Coopwood Park and he has worked to try coming up with a comprehensive plan to do the whole park.
“There is some money in the stimulus package but the red tape is thick,” he said. “On that park we did meet with Rural Development and we are looking at something we hope we hope to come to you with in October.”
DeBerry said he hears Bagley’s concerns and hopes to have someone serving on the park commission to look at some specific projects.
“In a lot of cases we have developed projects that were not successful,” he said. “Or we created programs not wanted, perhaps. Ken McMullen has come up with a list of programs - some successful, some not. We’re open to any ideas.”
Some ideas included an Internet Cafe, but baseball is the mainstay.
The city tried introducing karate and soccer.
“I am open to any suggestions to get us there,” he said. “We don’t seem to be getting participation.”
The USDA has offered free tennis rackets and balls but the city barely got enough participation to fill two tennis courts, DeBerry said.
“We have people who back up when we try to have an entry fee,” he said.
The department has a director, an administrative assistant and a maintenance person, he said, not enough to generate lots of interest in programs.
“You are asking all these programs to be done by one person where it is typically done by staff,” DeBerry said.
Russell Johnson suggest that if no staff is added then programs are not generated.
DeBerry then argued that the budget has to be balanced in departments sometimes at the expense of staffing.
“Unfortunately, the recreation department is not a sustaining department in fees and assets,” he said.
Bagley suggested that McMullen visit recreation and parks in other cities to see what programs they have that are successfully implemented.
McMullen said he has and lots of departments offer free transportation to youth because parents won’t bring them to the activities.
Bagley suggested that local churches many times find volunteers who help with transportation and programs.
She suggested McMillen survey to see what type of programs are wanted in the city so the department would “have something to go on.”
Alderman Harvey Payne asked if anyone has contacted healthcare organizations to see if funds are available for projects like fighting obesity.
“I know my voice is coming out hard,” Bagley said apologetically.
Payne asked if the grant writers in the city were the department heads or whether the city should hire a grant writer.
DeBerry offered that in the 1980s and 1990s the federal government started turning money back to the states and local governments through the office of the governors as community development block grants. He said it was up to the governor’s office to decide which kinds of projects to fund. The lion’s share of CDBG grants under Ronnie Musgrove’s administration went to water projects. Now small facilities municipal grants are popular as well as water and sewer treatment grants.
“There are not a lot of grants for quality of life projects like recreation,” said DeBerry.
He said the grants won’t usually cover operating costs but go to capital improvements.
He said cities have to come up with money to match grants often paying 20 percent of the ride and that the city does not have unlimited monies for matching funds. The cities generate money from fees, grants and departments, he said.
“So, 90 percent of what we are spending on infrastructure and capital improvements is not being paid for by the city,” he said.
Payne asked if departments heads write the grant proposals.
“We don’t have a grant writer, no,” said DeBerry. “Everybody thinks they can write grants and they cannot. You are competing with 81 counties and lots of municipalities and grants tend to go to urban rather than rural ones.
Payne asked what the chance of getting a grant is greater with a grant writer.
DeBerry said some department heads like 911 and the fire department, utilities and information technology have done well. But for the most part, cities rely on the planning and development districts to help put out grant proposals or provide technical assistance, he said.
“We have to fight battles we can win,” he said.
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