Parks and recreation board, Jan. 9, 2014

PARKSThe board tonight handled a mixed bag of issues, from setting a facility fee cap on all sports programs to cautiously discussing completion dates for the new Recreation Center. In between, board members heard two annual reports–one more positive than the other–from the Homewood Youth Cheerleading and Patriot Youth Football programs. [Click here to read their reports from last year.) In its first meeting of the year, the board managed to log attendance at over 120%, not only with the full regular

The Homewood Youth Cheerleading program is doing well, but enrollment is down two years running for the Homewood Patriot Youth Football program.

The Homewood Youth Cheerleading program is doing well, but enrollment is down two years running for the Homewood Patriot Youth Football program.

membership present, but with the return of two members whose terms officially expired Dec. 31 who will be staying on until replacements are appointed by the city council: Tim Baggett, serving at-large, and Don Little, from Ward 2.

Members present:  All–Chris Meeks, chairman, Tom Walker, Becky Morton, Don Little, Tim Baggett, Tom Blake, arriving late, and Keith Stansell, arriving after votes were taken. Also present was council liaison Richard Laws.

Staff present:  Dianne Rice, board secretary, Berkley Squires, public services director, Rusty Holley, parks and recreation superintendent, and Jakob Stephens, athletic director.

Audience attendance: 1, plus three attending in connection with formal board business.

All votes were unanimous:

Approved:  December 2013 minutes.

Public comment: The board was asked why it hasn’t addressed the Exceptional Foundation expansion in a regular meeting. Several members said the board wasn’t made aware of the EF plans until recently. Mr. Holley said he attended both the Dec. 19 neighborhood informational meeting and the Jan. 7 Planning Commission hearing. At the first meeting he asked the Foundation to provide him with architectural drawings, but he didn’t receive anything until the day before the hearing. The commission has asked for a traffic study and postponed any action until a second hearing on Feb. 4. The Exceptional Foundation currently shares limited parking with the Rec Center, whose expansion has taken some spaces.

Asked for nominations: Mr. Meeks, who became chairman when former chairman Chris Mason resigned in December (to move), said a new vice chair should be chosen at the next meeting.

Rec Center completion: Mr. Squires said that after a walk-through in mid-March, he will work on a punch list and be prepared to ask Harbert for a firm completion date, hopefully in April.

Approved a fee cap for all sports programs: At the request of Mr. Squires and Ms. Smalley, programs committee chair, the board passed a $7,500 cap on facility fees. Mr. Baggett pointed out that the cap benefits soccer, which is the only program that would exceed those charges in a season. The soccer program is recovering financially after several missteps last year, and the board waived all its spring usage fees and was considering granting a substantial discount for fall as well. Soccer leaders grumbled after giving their annual report, saying they were having to pay higher fees than other programs, but Mr. Squires said the fees were warranted because soccer used the fields twice as much as other sports. So far, there hasn’t been any word on what the program will pay for fall.

Approved the following facility requests:  1. Camp Smile-A-Mile 5K run at Central Park on Sept. 13, 2014; 2. Alabama Sports Festival June 20-22 at the Homewood Soccer Complex; and 3. Birmingham-Southern College’s Kappa Delta Sorority’s “Prevent Child Abuse” 5K run March 29, at Central Park.

Approved a Feb. 1, 2014, start date for new fee structure: Fees approved at the last meeting will be in effect Feb. 1. Mr. Squires said a question from Dr. Little about handling current non-resident members will be taken up in committee.

Report of the Homewood Patriot Youth Cheerleading program

Program president Elizabeth Studinka gave a brief report, saying numbers were down slightly from last year (84 vs. 91), but still up considerably from 2011, when only 64 enrolled. The cheerleaders perform at all Homewood Patriot Youth Football games, and events such as parades and a show for parents. The program charges $110 for residents and $135 for non-residents, although it only enrolled two this year, and gave two students fee waivers. The program, which routinely carries a $1,000 balance now has over $4,601 in the bank, after taking in $18,752 against expenses of only $14,864.

Ms. Studinka’s request this year, as last year, was for the board to provide a designated rehearsal space for all the squads.

Report of the Homewood Patriot Youth Football program

Program president Clete Walker gave an upbeat report that nevertheless showed a second year of declining enrollment, with a total 15 wins and 22 losses. The program this year had 96 players compared to 109 last year, forcing the program to consolidate different weight groups to make teams, which resulted in some mismatched games, he said.

Mr. Walker praised the facility and parks staff, but said numbers were declining due to competition from lacrosse, soccer, flag football, and continued effects of a league-wide rule change that limited enrolling boys from outside their home communities. The so-called Community Play Rule, he said, affects Homewood, Pelham and Helena programs, but not Vestavia, Hoover and Oak Mountain, which have plenty of their own players.

Dr. Stansell, a pediatrician, asked if parents were concerned about concussions. Mr. Walker said he’d gotten a couple of emails from parents about it, but he didn’t think it explained the enrollment decline. However, he said the teams did have concussion injuries this year.

Mr. Walker continued with the financial news, saying the program produced $32,446 from registrations, tickets and merchandise (down 23% over last year) against expenses of $20,264 (also down, 25%) , and has $34,702 in the bank to spend for the upcoming season’s expenses, including new helmets. There were 10 non-resident players and 12 scholarships (fee waivers) awarded. He said the program struggles so much to recruit enough boys to make one team per age group that he’s been known to give discounts and cut other financial deals to get parents to enroll latecomers into the program. To survive, the program needs at minimum 5 teams with 20 boys on each team, or 100 players.

Mr. Walker asked that the scoreboard be fixed before next season and to make sure the baseball field house has an adequate ice machine. Mr. Squires said he’d give the program the old rec center’s ice machine.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at about 6:10 p.m.

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