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.