2006-10-19 / Front Page

Rec commission idea nixed by council

By Dotti Farrington

Town councilors last week turned back a recommendation from the town administrator on rules for a new commission to oversee the town Department of Parks and Recreation.

The council basically said the proposed rules took too much responsibility away from the staff and gave too much authority to what would be seven appointed members.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser presented a draft of his commission plan, based on a similar arrangement followed in South Kingstown, where Keiser was assistant town executive before coming to Jamestown a year ago.

The councilors said the rules would give appointees too much involvement in budget and personnel matters instead of assigning advisory tasks about program policies, needs, and options.

Council members have been looking into town recreation activities for several months, in part because of problems housing teen program. The council study, triggered by Councilman Michael Schnack asking about recreation policies, led to interpretations that he was criticizing Matt Bolles, the recreation director for 17 years. The talks led to a swell of residents' defense of Bolles' work. The talks also led to Bolles' decision to retire early, effective Nov. 10.

The council last month called for an appointed board or commission, as recommended by Keiser, to advise on recreation needs and programs.

In directing Keiser to revise his recommendations, Council President David Long said, "This (appointing a commission) is not a pressing matter. We need to take the time to do it right."

Last month, Long said that he was distressed by the way that Bolles' performance has been discussed publicly.

Teen center In a related matter, the council heard a report that a summit meeting last month on teen needs focused on a long-term, permanent center for youth, but did not address any current, ongoing needs.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski has tried to address immediate teen needs with several temporary options for a center that were rejected for various reasons. The council formally voted to withdraw its consideration of her latest proposal, for use of a second-floor office space as a temporary youth center because of zoning, cost, and possible safety issues.

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