Parents ask to preserve rec programs
By Jane Beathard
A group of London parents and their children asked city council on Thursday to preserve local youth recreational programs, despite a shrinking budget.
Chuck Duvall spoke for about 15 others who attended the regular council meeting. He acknowledged council members are facing difficult decisions about city finances. However, more than 500 local children and their parents benefit from winter basketball and volleyball leagues at the London Community Center, as well as summer softball and baseball programs at city parks, he said.
He urged council to keep the community center intact and allow activities centered there to grow.
“Keep an open mind about how those activities affect the city’s future,” Duvall cautioned.
He proposed increased participation and admission fees as a means of covering operating expenses at the center. He voiced support for a new tax to fund recreation in the city.
London’s parks and recreation department took a severe hit in the 2013 budget. Director Ryan Ladd’s $44,927 per year full-time job was cut to part time. On Thursday, council revised that salary to $15 per hour for a 32-hour week. Additional reductions in the recreation budget closed the municipal swimming pool, saving $30,000 to $35,000 annually, according to auditor Katie Hensel.
Council member Dick Minner noted the city plants trees for future benefit and should be willing to support youth activities for the same reason.
All six council members present at Thursday’s meeting said they would support a future tax levy earmarked for recreation. Alan Knowles was absent. Minner and Steve Scaggs said they preferred to wait until November’s general election for a ballot initiative.
Also on Thursday, council failed to act on a request by tax director Randy Courter to increase his department’s 2013 budget by $10,000 in order to pay a part-time clerk for 32 hours of work each week.
The clerk currently works 23 hours weekly. The union that represents the clerk requested the increase.