Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recreation contract to be decided

The Thursday April 15 meeting of the County Service Area Advisory Committee focused on a discussion of options for recreation management in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The Committee and attendees, including four Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) board members, discussed two primary options — that ICRC’s current contract would be renewed, either for a full or more limited term; or that the county would assume control over recreation, with increased CSA 36 Advisory Committee supervision.

Following over 3 hours of discussion and by a provisional and “non-binding” vote of two "for" and one abstention, the current three member County Service Area Advisory Committee may be set to recommend to Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone a contract transfer from ICRC to county control.

Voting to make that change, contingent upon a special meeting presentation from ICRC at 9:30 a.m. on Monday April 19 at the Idyllwild Fire Protection District conference room, were Vice Chair Steve Kunkle and committee member Mike Frietas. Chair Holly Maag abstained, pending review of ICRC bylaw revisions, and resolution of other concerns.

The ICRC contract is due to expire on June 30. Maag deftly facilitated a marathon meeting in which she noted a history of ICRC contractual failings, requests for reimbursement submitted in error, and ICRC board conflicts with the county. She
sought assurances from attending ICRC board members Chris Singer, Linda McCaughin, Dick Goldberg and John Simpson that, should Stone decide to renew ICRC’s contract, ICRC’s management stumbles would not be repeated. “I want assurances that any past negative actions directed to or lack of cooperation with the county will not be an issue,” she said. “We all need to cooperate better to see that recreation management is in the community’s best interest. If issues of animosity come before this board again, we don’t want to hear it.” “The relationship with the county must be better,” said Kunkle. “I don’t want to see tension,” said Frietas.

All three Advisory Committee members wanted to see a final draft of ICRC bylaws, incorporating promised Brown Act open meeting language and clear separation between ICRC’s public and private interests and duties on or before the April 19. meeting. The Committee also expressed a desire that, should Stone renew ICRC’s contract, it be for only one year, with subsequent term renewals contingent upon levels of performance. The Advisory Committee’s final recommendation about what recreation management options could best serve recreation district residents must be provided to county representatives on Tuesday April 20.

One of the county’s and the Advisory Committee’s areas of interest in ICRC bylaw revisions is whether they make meetings subject to Brown Act open meeting provisions. It is an inclusion that Director Goldberg suggested in September last year, but to date, no such revisions have been made. Goldberg stated at the meeting, “The [draft] revision contains language that makes us totally Brown Act compliant.” Singer countered, “I can’t guarantee that the [ICRC] board will vote to approve full Brown Act compliance.”

CSA Operations Manager Bill Brown noted that ICRC bylaw revisions had been promised the county in September 2009 and remain undelivered. “It does concern me that by law revision is not in place and was not in place from the beginning,” said Maag. “I would like to see the anticipated revisions now.”

Bill Brown discussed option two, county control, noting that a menu of county recreation options, already in place in other CSA’s, could be available to Hill recreation within current budgetary guidelines while retaining all existing Town Hall recreation programs. “There are programs being developed off the Hill and that are currently in existence that might be made available,” said Brown. “It would be the community’s and Advisory Committee’s decision if those programs were right for the Hill.”

Brown assured the Committee and attendees that the current menu of recreation offerings, directed primarily toward children and adults who play sports, would be preserved. Brown discussed expanded kinds of recreational opportunities, available in other recreation CSA’s that serve a broader demographic — seniors and young people who do not play sports. He made clear that those kinds of expanded opportunities could be made available here. All it takes is vision and will since expanding those programs need not, he said, cause additional expense to the CSA budget. Pilot programs could be instituted, as are being premiered in other CSA’s, that, if locally embraced and successful, would not negatively impact the recreation budget, and if successful, could actually contribute to revenues – cooking classes, Wii bowling, Wii tennis, mountain bike classes, organized dances for adults, not just teens — a menu of possibilities that had some in the audience excited at the “outside the box” thinking connected with an expanded program.

Brown also cautioned that CSA 36 reserves should be used primarily for capital expenses that serve Hill recreation in the long run — a van to transport kids on field trips, development of new programs when and if the new community center is built, but not used for salary increases in a time of financial crisis when even county employees are forced to take mandatory furloughs. He stressed that even under county management, local control would be maintained through Advisory Committee oversight and public attendance at open CSA meetings.

Town Hall employees, including the recreation director, would become county employees with full county benefits, after an open hiring period, in which existing employees would be part of the hiring pool. The Advisory Committee expressed repeated concerns that existing employees either be retained or given priority in the hiring process. Brown explained that although the Advisory Committee cannot hire or fire, their duty is to make recommendations regarding recreation employees.

ICRC board members repeated previous complaints that any contract failings on their part were in part due to lack of guidance from the county. Brown pointed out that no ICRC board members had ever come to Riverside, a common course of action for a contract holder, for a meeting or to ask questions. “Bill [Brown] and Mike [Franklin] have been up here for these meetings [CSA 36] and opportunities for interaction have been there,” said Maag. ICRC members, until recently, did not attend CSA 36 meetings.

At the special April 19 meeting, ICRC is expected to present a list of pilot programs to expand recreation as well as a final draft of bylaw revisions. That is the only purpose of the meeting — to hear what, after holding the contract for over 2 and a half years, ICRC plans to do to offer to a wider audience the same kind of expanded opportunities that would be available through county management.

The final decision regarding the contract will be made by the Board of Supervisors.


  1. There is a letter circulating around town with the following statement:

    "On an even more sinister note, I wonder if the county (Bill Brown?) would like to take over Town Hall in order to dip into our reserves."

    Kathy and Mara Schoner, authors of this e-mail, you expose your lack of knowledge. People who know the details of this situation can not take you seriously.

    Is it any wonder that the County is just fed up with the ICRC? Now the ICRC is trying to generate a groundswell of support by making the county the enemy. Kathy and Mara you are pawns.

    Your outrage is misdirected and mistimed. Where were you a year ago, or six months ago, or 3 months ago, when you could have called out ICRC and demanded a fix to their lack of fiducially responsibility to the taxpayers? And demanded disclosure of the land donor to their 3 million dollar boondoggle?

    It is good that ICRC is being called out. Hopefully the anonymous donor will take notice and pull himself out of this den of thieves. Talk about hidden agendas and lack of transparency with regard to the well being of this town. Talk about sinister!

  2. Marshall,

    I appreciate your equitable coverage of the ICRC, CSA, Riverside County contract issue now being considered in Idyllwild. I believe you have presented the elements of the debate fairly and with accuracy.

    Your coverage allows readers to form their own opinions based on the facts, statements made at the meeting, and the historical elements of the discussion.

    Whatever the outcome, having an educated and enlightened perspective for readers is critical and you have served that challenging purpose with professionalism.

    John Simpson
    ICRC Board Member

  3. Hi Anonymous above,

    Who are you? I am not sure we have met.

    First of all, I wonder if you read my letter in its entirety or just the one quote? There were two entirely separate letters, one from myself and one from Kathy. (Note: Though I find her to be a lovely woman, she is already married so she does not share my name.) I also never mentioned ICRC in my letter. I wrote about Town Hall because that is what I know best. (More on that later.)

    Second, I would like to clarify the quote that you took out of context. I am not sure if you took it this way, but I didn't mean that Bill Brown would pocket our reserve money himself, but rather that if the county governs Town Hall (under the direction of Bill Brown), the reserves would potentially be dipped into and the Idyllwild community would have no say.

    Indeed, Brown has already suggested purchasing a van for $20,000 with money from the reserves in order to transport kids down the hill for activities. I personally think this is a bad idea: We would then pay for gas, insurance, upkeep of the van, have to come up with more money for whatever activity down the hill, etc.

    If we were to dip into the reserves, $20,000 could be a staff person's salary for example. (Have you noticed, Anonymous, that there are a lot of people out of work up here?) We could start up a program for middle schoolers, for example, with the extra staff member, at once helping to support the local economy and create more for the middle school kids to do.

    If the county takes over, however, we will be put in the position of pleading our case to someone from off the hill, who does not necessarily know our community's needs, who can choose to listen to our ideas, or to ignore us. As he (for example, Bill Brown) chooses.

    As to your question of where was I a year ago? I was attending the extremely well-run Town Hall baseball games in which my son participated. (I was impressed by how much everyone trusted Bob Lewis, by the way - when things got tense around some calls the ump made, Bob took over as umpire. The parents and the coaches knew he would be fair.)

    I was also enjoying my daughter's dance classes at Town Hall. You see, Rebecca de Roche, a talented professional dancer and teacher, wanted to start up a dance school, but didn't have much capital. Town Hall gave her the space she needed at a reasonable rate. This way, Town Hall helped support a mother of three (Rebecca) and helped my daughter access her passion for dance.

    I am sorry that you have already judged me, "can not take [me] seriously," believe I have no will of my own, and am therefore a "pawn." I am sorry because your condescension serves no one and threatens to close down much needed dialogue. Yes, I wrote a passionate letter. I feel passing Town Hall onto the county rather than keeping it run by the community is a bad idea. My letter was written not to you, not the Town crier, but to CSA 36 Board. Rather than belittling me, board member Mary Haag wrote me back, appreciative of my concern and encouraging me to attend tomorrow’s meeting, which I will do.

    Speaking of which, I hope that rather than mudslinging, we can all go the meeting tomorrow with open eyes, hearts and minds in order to best support Town Hall so it can continue to provide us with high quality and affordable programs.

    Mara Schoner

  4. Part 1

    Mara, your email was on its 4th or 5th forwarding so it is possible that it became difficult to determine who authored which part. Regardless it appears that you added your commentary to Kathy's email. Maybe you didn't really read what she said. And I do see that you didn't mention ICRC. But ICRC is the cause of this problem, not the County. Do you not see this? Call Brown sinister is so off base it demonstrates how out of whack this local tea bagger group (ICRC and their supporters) are. Blame everyone else.

    In your desire for open dialog to bring about a win for Idyllwild, why in the world would you suggest a sinister motivation concerning Bill Brown's intention. Do you any facts to suggest this? Have to spoken to him to determine if your suspicions are accurate? You said you hadn't been to ICRC or CSA meetings. You have no facts and you haven't spoken to him so you are using someone else's suspicions to covertly implicate Bill Brown in a conspiracy. You are a pawn. So much so that you forwarded an email with lies and innuendo, added your own sinister connotation and sent it to your list. Yes, pawn describes it pretty well.

    Here it is:

    From: Mara Schoner and/or Mark Yardas
    Subject: FW: Please help save Idyllwild Town Hall Recreation

    Hi Idy people that we know and think might take an interest in this...
    The Town Hall and the reserves that the people of Idyllwild have built up since the 1960's are in danger of being taken over by the county. Long story. I have more details than what you will read below, but basically, there is a meeting Monday morning - you can email Kathy Lewis ( about this if you would like to attend. At the bottom of the letter I am also attaching an email that I wrote to the CSA 36 board.

    Subject: Please help save Idyllwild Town Hall Recreation

    Hi Everyone,

    You are receiving this letter because I feel you have a heart for Idyllwild, and it's Recreation programs at Town Hall. Last night at the Idyllwild CSA 36 meeting Bill Brown, EDA County Representative and former supervisor of Bob, announced his plan to take over Idyllwild Town Hall Recreation, and have the County run Town Hall. There are only 3 people on the Idyllwild CSA 36 Board : Holly Maag, Steve Kunkle and Mike Frietas. It is up to the three of them to give their recommendations to supervisor Jeff Stone on who will get the contract between ICRC (they have it now), or the County to run Town Hall Recreation. Last night at a 4 1/2 hour meeting, both Steve Kunkle and Mike Frietas chose the County of Riverside. Holly Maag is going to give her answer soon. Bill Brown had the floor for most of the 4 1/2 hour meeting. This should be a community decision.

  5. Part 2

    What would happen to Town Hall and it's employees if the government steps in? Bill Brown said that all of the current positions at Town Hall would be open to the public to interview and be hired in the positions that are already filled by our current local staff members. Our Town Hall staff would need to apply for the positions that they already have, and go up against the public,and our present staff will not receive any preferential treatment. On a personal note, salaries would be lower as Riverside County already has Friday furloughs, and County jobs are being cut as much as 20 %
    according to The Press Enterprise paper. Bill Brown did say that Bob's
    position (Director) would be substantially lower than it already is now. What the public doesn't know is that Bob gave himself a 5% cut in pay. Town Hall has a huge reserve that our community has been saving over the years from our tax dollars, and we would like the money to be left in our community. If you read this weeks Town Crier (4/15) article on Town Hall written by Beth Nottley, it is the most honest, accurate numbers that have been written over the past nine months regarding Town Hall and it's budget. Our employees are
    doing a great job, and we need to help save Town Hall and keep it locally run by ICRC (Idyllwild Community Recreation Council), not the government.

    There is no guarantee that our great staff will be hired back to do the wonderful jobs they are already doing serving our community and it's needs. The County already oversees ICRC and our Recreation program budgets. The County does not have control of Town Halls Recreation reserve funds that have been accumulating since the 1960's.

    I'm telling you this because this decision, or discussion was never brought to the public. Town Hall and ICRC were not made aware of this situation until last night at the CSA 36 meeting. Bill Brown wants the recommendations by Tuesday morning. Jeff Stone will make his decision next week. ICRC will be presenting their case to the CSA 36 Board either Sunday or Monday at an open meeting stating why they deserve to keep the contract and the control of Recreation locally. I will keep you informed as we need you to attend and support our community at this meeting.

    If you would like to voice your opinion, or support ICRC over the County of Riverside (government) taking control of our community Recreation Programs, then you can help by e- mailing or calling our Riverside County Supervisor, Jeff Stone at or call (951) 955-1030.

    Thank You !
    I hope to see you at the meeting.



    P.S. I have the Emails for the CSA 36 board members that will give Bill
    Brown their recomendations by Monday. (Thank you Kari)

    Steve Kunkle
    Holly Maag
    Mike Frietas (Freitas?)

  6. Part 3

    Here is my email to the board:

    Dear Mr. Stone and the CSA 36 Board, I am writing you out of outrage that various people in the county government are trying to take over Idyllwild Town Hall WITHOUT ANY IDYLLWILD COMMUNITY INPUT. I am shocked and angered that we nearly lost governance of Town Hall
    last Friday had it not been for Holly Maag’s hesitancy over making her decision that night. I fully support the current staff at Town Hall and our family has benefitted greatly from their care and the programs they have initiated and continued over the past two years since we moved here (i.e. Summer care, baseball, dance, etc.).
    Town Hall is a great resource for our community. It has supported not only the kids in the community, but also for example, provided inexpensive space for a dance studio when Rebecca de Roche was starting out. Town Hall staff members live locally, in many cases were born and raised here (or lived here for decades and are raising their own families here), and have a tremendous commitment to the community and a proven track record with Town Hall. Their livelihoods depend on these jobs that they have dedicated themselves to. I cannot for the life of me understand what the
    point of reopening these positions would be. To add insult to injury, it seems like the same politicians who would love to take over Town Hall, would be happy to hire new staff simply for the reason that they are sympathetic to their (the county’s) goals. On an even more sinister note, I wonder if the county (Bill Brown?) would
    like to take over Town Hall in order to dip into our reserves.
    Things have been moving in such a positive direction since Bob Lewis took
    over Town Hall a year ago. He has taken a 5% pay cut personally in order to save the salaries of his staff. We want the county to stay out of our business. I personally pledge to fight this tooth and nail – through the media and through educating people in our community about this potential stealth takeover of the Town Hall and our reserves.


    Mara Schoner

  7. Dear Anonymous,

    You still have not identified yourself.

    Thanks for responding, Anonymous! I am hoping to get some answers today at the meeting but as reported by Marshall Smith himself, IN THE POST THE STARTS THIS PAGE, in the April 15th meeting, Brown suggested dipping into the reserves for the purchase of a van.

    Here is the quote:

    "Brown also cautioned that CSA 36 reserves should be used primarily for capital expenses that serve Hill recreation in the long run — a van to transport kids on field trips..."

    Lies and innuendo? Do you so mistrust Marshall Smith's reporting?

    Unfortunately it is just before the meeting now so you may not read this before it starts. I was going to ask you to wear a blue hat or a trench coat, or some other identifier so we could meet, but you could still protect your identity!


  8. Hi Anonymous,

    Wow! I didn't realize my personal letter to family and friends would make it to this blog. You posted my personal Email for the world to see. Could you please remove it, along with the CSA 36 Board Members Emails as we did not give you permission to post them? I don't know who you are or why you appear to be so angry. I stand by my personal Email that you posted.

    What you don't know is that I appreciate the volunteers of the CSA36 Board and I have attended meetings.I like what these volunteers are doing.They are the eyes and ears of our community. If our community does not attend their meetings, they report what they hear. I also like what ICRC volunteers are doing. I am aware of ICRC's responsibilities and I have witnessed their willingness to respond to the ongoing requests. I was incorrect as far as ICRC not knowing about the county adding the info. until that night. Town Hall Director, Bob Lewis, was not aware until that night, and CSA36 Board member, Holly Maag, graciously apologized for that today. I know because I was at the meeting. I also have known Bill Brown for many years and have talked to him many times. The purpose of my letter was to make the community aware of the current situation at the CSA36 meeting.

    Today's meeting reaffirmed that our community works well together and it's in Idyllwild's best interest to maintain current staffing and programs.


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