Marion council reviews rec program function

The Marion City Council at its meeting March 30 learned more about how the recreation program in town works based on a PowerPoint presentation and other information provided by Roger Holter, city administrator.

The idea in looking at the recreational program, Holter said, was to begin discussion on how to improve communications, while leveraging as many cross-operational savings as possible between the various groups involved.

?In doing the research, follow-up and suggestions from the community, there was a large portion of the population wanting to see enhanced programs offered,? he said.

Those requests by the community included more programs for children to include soccer, crafts, dance, miniature golf and fishing.

For the adults, the list of suggestions were Par 3 golf, trails, volleyball, handball, a fitness center, cooking classes and community theater.

Senior citizens wanted to see Bingo, checkers, serenity gardens and trails.

As part of the recreational overview, Holter said that all current programs are funneled to a single individual, Margo Yates, for implementation of all suggestions and recommendations.

According to information Holter gathered and analyzed, the city?s biggest program is basketball, which is director-aided with input from the recreation board, school district and league coaches.

The second largest program is baseball, he said, and it is currently Yates who receives input from the recreation board, Marion High School program, league coaches and baseball boosters.

?In addition to that (Yates) is directly responsible for swimming, volleyball and adult programs,? he said.

When looking at recreation, Holter said, the city?s parks are an integral part of all the programs, naming Central Park, East Park with its skateboard, formerly used for basketball, along with Liberty Park, Ann?s Park, and the Marion Library courtyard.

Soon with the development in Industrial Park there will be future fishing and a walking trail.

The city received requests to reopen the basketball courts and refurbish the tennis courts, in addition to the request for a possible racquetball or handball court.

?The (Marion) Cemetery is also experiencing trends,? he said. ?When the cemetery was first established it was almost exclusively full burial interments. Today almost 50 percent have gone to cremation.?

Along with that, he said there is a trend toward serenity parks.

Another thing, Holter said, is for the council to consider meeting event venues.

?We have a community center, a performing arts center, and we have the Marion County Park and Lake Hall.?

After noticing some council members looked surprised by Holter including a county location, he said he believes Marion goes beyond the corporate city limits.

?The lake community is part of our city,? he said.

Current costs

Setting the stage about the current recreational situation and future, the next step was to discuss the operational landscape within the city.

Using the PowerPoint presentation, Holter showed councilors a flow chart of how the current operation looks.

?We have a recreation board and park board with all the lines of who and how and what influence they communicate,? he said.

?I am very impressed our director is even able to function with this many directions being offered simultaneously.?

From the city investment side, Holter said the event venues Marion directly supports annually is $191,447, and part of that is allocation for the pool.

Expenses for the community center and the parks totals $57,867; Marion Cemetery at $38,197 and the recreation board $16,000 annually.

?The city also pays the Marion Chamber of Commerce $7,000 in appropriations and $700 in utilities, which part of that is reimburseable, but the maintenance is still handled by city staff,? he said.

The city?s investment toward Chingawassa Days averages about $5,200 and the city shares with Marion Advancement Campaign about $2,800 in advertising expenses.

?Our total investment in the existing recreational activities is $319,311 per year,? he said.

In a proposed operations flow chart, Holter suggested the existing school board and its administration and city council would continue, but create a new entity, the parks and recreation advisory board.

?That board would consist of basically combining three of our existing advisory boards to include the cemetery board, park board and three from recreation commission to create a nine-person board to help direct the activities for all parks and recreation in the city,? he said.

The input from the three top entities would go through the city administrator, and the parks and recreation director, of which the director would have a program director responsible for event officials, would be coordinating with the volunteers.

?In order to improve the efficiency and synergy between the facilities we would have a maintenance league that would report to the parks and recreation director, who would be responsible for coordinating ballfields and parks,? he said.

Three reasons

According to Holter, looking at the program is important for three main reasons: economics, lifestyle and community.

Regarding economics, he said that recreational activities is the third highest factor on deciding if young families want to relocate to a town.

As for lifestyle, recreational programs can improve the quality and longevity of life while reducing safety and security issues in a community.

The No. 1 factor in the success of a rural community is the desire and willingness to pull together for the overall well-being.

The council plans to continue the discussion at its meeting April 13.

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