By Sean Rice
Celina's general fund cannot afford to support parks and recreation operations at their current levels next year, city administration told parks board members Tuesday.
The parks board needs to find ways to raise money for operations or solicit volunteers to help complete routine tasks, Celina Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel suggested.
"I hate cutting parks. I hate cutting any programs," Hazel told members. "When this budget's gone, the money is gone. There will be no additional."
How the parks can save or make money was a recurring topic during the board's regular monthly meeting at the parks office on Portland Street.
More than half of the parks budget, $285,000 this year, comes from a transfer from the city general fund. The general fund supports nearly all non-utility related city activities and is about $5 million annually. "This year there's only $30,000 in there for public works for streets, that's why every penny counts," Hazel said.
Members rejected a proposal to replace the teenager-staffed concession stand at Bryson Pool with a bank of vending machines, which would be filled daily.
City officials have said the city loses money on pool operations each year because expenses do not meet income. The city could have made $800 to $1,600 annually by going with vending machines and trimming the staff list, parks Director Jeff Fortkamp estimated.
Fortkamp said his only reservation is the 14-year-olds who work the concession stand are the next year's crop of lifeguards. Parks board members agreed and remained silent when asked for a motion to bring to a vote the idea to replace workers with vending machines. With no vote, the pool management will move forward with hiring workers for the concession stand and will not get vending machines.
Parks members also decided not to act on suggestions from a Celina City Council committee to consider raising gate prices or season pass prices at the pool. Celina is in line with what area pools are charging their residents. Only Spencerville charges more than Celina. A family season pass to Bryson Pool is $90.
Council member June Scott suggested creating a "friends of the park" organization to help maintain the parks' appearances. Members brain-stormed ideas to organize volunteers.
"Sometimes it is easier to give time than money," Hazel said.
Mayor Sharon LaRue said the board needs to come up with a plan to raise money or solicit volunteers, and she will help execute that plan. In the meantime, LaRue said she will keep names and numbers of volunteers who step forward from now on.
"We are so far behind, this is by far the busiest month for the rec department all year," Fortkamp said, adding that parks cleanup will be continuing, when time and money allow.
"We get one nice weekend, and it's like, 'Why isn't everything done?,' " he said.