2013-07-11 / News

Public invited to recreation forum

First of three meetings will focus on special events, art and culture
By Margo Sullivan

The town’s Recreation Department offers youth sports, summer camps and free concerts as part of a busy calendar, but questions on how to improve the department will be the focus of a public meeting Tuesday.

The forum will be the first of three community sessions concerning the town’s recreational activities. According to program director Jill Goldstein, the July 16 meeting will focus on special events, arts and culture.

Consultants from the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts will lead the discussion. They will ultimately add the information to the comprehensive study they’ve been crafting, Goldstein said.

The discussion starts at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall council chambers. It’s expected to continue until 7:30 p.m. The other meetings – set for July 30 and Aug. 6 at the same time – focus on recreational activities for adults and senior citizens, and programs for youngsters and teens.

The meetings present an opportunity for islanders to describe programs they’d like to see the town provide. Residents will also have the opportunity to assess the pros and cons of the current offerings.

For those who can’t make the meetings, the Recreation Department plans to make a survey available online and in the Press.

According to Goldstein, recreation officials have an idea of what questions they need answered to improve the department. Among them: How well do recreational programs currently meet your needs? How well do they meet the needs of your family? What do you think about the town’s public parks and beaches? Are they clean, safe and fun to use? What new ideas do you have?

Goldstein said she set up the three meetings at the direction of the steering committee helping to direct the recreation study. The Town Council at its July 1 meeting reactivated the committee, comprised of Recreation Director Bill Piva, Town Councilors Eugene Mihaly and Thomas Tighe, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, and consultants Rob Haley and Monica Lamboy.

The council made the decision to revive the steering committee to make sure public input was gathered and included in the final report.

When the town first decided to evaluate the Recreation Department, the council hired the UMass consultants to assess the department’s management. The councilors said they wanted public input to be a significant part of the process when rec officials met with consultants.

However, when Keiser gave an update on the progress, he indicated the two sides were still discussing the best way to gather public opinion.

At that point, the consultants were planning to hold two meetings with community groups. One session was to meet with stakeholders, and the other was a community forum to gather public comment. Keiser was skeptical many people would attend a meeting on a summer night. He predicted the turnout would be sparse.

He then suggested a survey should be conducted along with the meetings. The survey could be available on the town’s website and delivered to each island home as an insert in the Jamestown Press.

“The general public outreach can be a combination of a survey and the evening workshops,” he said.

At that point, Council President Kristine Trocki said the only work she had seen from the consultants was a “description of the parks.” On the other hand, Keiser said the consultants completed a “good overview” of current operations.

Councilor Mary Meagher indicated the councilors had not seen the overview yet. “We did not get the e-mail,” she said. “Have the meetings been scheduled?”

“No,” Keiser replied.

Mihaly asked if the survey had been written yet.

No, Keiser said.

Mihaly said to do a survey, the consultants would have to write the questions first and advertise it. He was doubtful the work could be completed in time. A final report is due in August.

“By the end of July sounds very ambitious,” Mihaly said.

At that point, Mihaly suggested reactivating the steering committee to give the consultants direction.

“We had set up a little working group,” he reminded Keiser. “It sounds like it might be a useful thing to convene the group to talk about where we go from here. It sounds a little undetermined.”

Meagher said she thought the steering committee would have to meet quickly.

“The survey needs to go out pretty darn soon to meet their deadline, so I guess the steering committee will be meeting this week,” she said.

Meagher also added the councilors might want to extend the project if it appeared the consultants could not finish by the August deadline.

Since the July 1 council meeting, Goldstein said the steering committee has resolved all the issues about the community input and developed three public sessions organized around themes. Everyone is invited to attend all the meetings, regardless of whether they have participated in recreation programs. She added the three meetings are meant to give people three chances to comment in addition to the survey.

If residents should miss the meeting about adult and senior programs, for example, and want to offer a suggestion, they can still make comments at the next meeting, even though the topic is youth and teen programs.

“They will not be restricted,” she said.

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