For the Floyd/Floyd County Parks & Recreational Authority, which has relied heavily on sponsorships, donations and registration fees, “it’s always been tight to get through the year,” said Rec Director Andy Made, who has been on the job five months.
This year adding to the financial stress has been a costlier audit, at over $7,000, and declining numbers in almost every sport – including youth basketball and volleyball, he explained. “…we’re one or two registration seasons away from it being a bad time for parks and rec.”
Mabe was speaking at a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Floyd Town Council and Authority Thursday night, March 7 at the W. Skip Bishop Jr. Town Hall. He was accompanied by the two town representatives on the Authority - Kendra Edgell and Jonie Brennan. Attending for the Board of Supervisors were Jerry Boothe, Chairman Lauren Yoder, Vice Chairman Joe Turman, Justin Coleman, County Attorney Stephen Durbin, County Administrator Terri Morris and Assistant Administrator Cynthia Ryan. Present for the Town Council were Vice Mayor Mike Patton, Bruce Turner, Chris Bond, Mayor Will Griffin and Town Manager Kayla Cox.
In January the Authority board voted 6-1 to dissolve the Authority and asked the Supervisors to transfer its assets, including the county recreation park, jointly to the county and town, and create a new parks department.
Since the Authority is owned by the county and town, local leaders met last week with Authority board members and the rec director to hear more about the problems and talk over possible responses.
Mabe said that $12,000 plus had been raised in sponsorships and concessions last year and it looked like the money had been used on normal expenses. He commented that he had added new programs, including adult basketball, and introduced a program guide, which included offerings such as a CPR class and trips, in order to generate more revenue. Parks and rec is in competition with others in terms of sponsorships. “We’re doing everything we can….We’re trying our best. I feel we’re in a hole that’s pretty difficult to come out of.”
Edgell told the groups the Authority board members knew when Mabe was hired, “it was going to be a struggle.” She said again that the conversation about the vote for dissolution came about very quickly, and she didn’t think there had been enough research on what would happen next if the Authority dissolved. She was the lone dissenting vote.
Boothe asked how it would “change numbers” (participation) if the county or town would take over.
“I think we’re going to have to keep going the creative route,” Mabe said, but there will always be participation.
Boothe said he was thinking about it from the citizens’ perspective – is it worth the tax money going into it, whether it is from the town or the county.
There’s more to parks and rec than youth athletics, Mabe responded. He said he has added the adult basketball league and there are several teams signed on. “I’ve had a crazy response for adult softball.”
Boothe, who served on the Authority board for almost nine years, said that looking at the Authority’s history, the Authority board “has always been a working board,” not relying on the county or tax dollars, but rather board members who held fundraisers to support the program. Car shows, concerts, donkey basketball and wrestling events were a few of the fundraisers mentioned. Boothe said he spent time in the dunking booth, too. “That’s the kind of board that made it work for at least 25 years….I’ve tried to figure it out where this thing went off the rails. When did the board suddenly decide it didn’t have to do that kind of stuff….Apparently it has been some time.”
The Authority board was never intended to meet just once a month, Boothe noted. It was always meant to be an active board.
Patton, who also served on the Authority board in the past, said Boothe had illustrated where the Authority had been and that is important to know, “but we’ve got to decide where we’re going forward.” He told Edgell, Brennan and Mabe he appreciated them attending the meeting.
Mabe said two of the biggest recent expenses had been the side-by-side vehicle that had been purchased and the dugouts that had been built. The county had contributed extra money for the vehicle, above the $55,000 it usually gives, it was pointed out. Along with annual contributions from the county and town (which gives $5,000), the county also provides office space for parks and rec.
The Mayor asked Yoder what he thought the cost of operation for parks and rec would be if the county took it over. Yoder said he thought it would continue on the same path of funding provided the revenue came in. He added there would other needs beyond monetary in this situation, adding that “no matter which direction you go (continuing it as an Authority or making it a county department), you’ve got to build your reputation back.”
Edgell said that Mabe has already gotten a huge response from the community.
Patton said that in the year Yoder served on the Authority board, he had helped with the baseball program and made it “function and survive that year. In my opinion the board members of the rec board have an impossible job. There’s not enough of you for everything that has to be done…. That’s why I’m thinking in a way it’s better that it becomes a county department.” He commented that the “department” idea addresses the need for manpower.
Mabe said, “All I know is something needs to be done to fix this thing….It’s a beast to take this thing on.”
Turner said the bylaws need to be addressed. Boothe stated earlier in the meeting that the Authority should have officers, as it did in the past. In regard to more staff, Boothe said an assistant director would also be a good idea. As for making the Authority a county department, Turner stated, “I don’t know that we need to go that route.” He said, maybe the groups could contribute additional money. The mayor agreed.
Speaking also as a parent and coach, Coleman said the issue needed to be resolved soon, that it had been going on a couple of years publicly and “people are losing faith in the system.”
Yoder said some teams that had played as rec teams last year are now in AAU. “I’m really passionate about just having recreation for kids….How do we find ways to make it more affordable….There’s so many different ways we could go.”
“Until the town and county make a decision…the Authority needs to be functioning,” Boothe said.
Yoder also remarked that the rec director is “in an impossible position” and a schedule of action should be figured out so that he wouldn’t be left in limbo.
The Mayor said the town could not take the Authority on and if anything is going to change that would be up to the county.
“Are we willing to put money into an Authority or a department we can control?” Yoder asked.
Turner said there were a lot more things that needed to be figured out, for instance how being a department affects the ability to have fundraisers. The Mayor added that the division of assets would have to be worked out and more. “There’s a long list of things.” And to the Supervisors he said: “I’m looking at you. How much additional burden would it be?”
“We can’t just look at now, but what it morphs into,” replied Boothe.
How about fundraising? Coleman asked. The Authority can continue to fundraise if it becomes a department, Durbin said.
Morris asked if the Authority became a county department, would there be things the town could do. Cox said that there might be a possibility of helping with equipment or reworking schedules for manpower.
Yoder said there is a lot of kids benefiting from participation in parks and rec athletics.
Boothe agreed. “Kids are under such pressure today…They need an outlet….That’s what it was founded on.”
(UPDATE: On Tuesday, March 12, at their regular meeting, the Floyd County Board of Supervisors agreed to explore making the Authority a county department.)