Park board veteran Tom Walker served his final meeting tonight after 10 years’ service, a volunteer career that saw the building of the new soccer complex, rec center and — judging from tonight’s annual report– an end to long-term adversity in the Homewood Soccer Club’s management. “It’s been an absolute privilege,” Walker said about his board experience, recounting how the city passed a millage increase in his first year on the board–2005–that would make possible such capital projects as SoHo, the Rec Center, Patriot Park and the Soccer Complex. In 2007, a search for a new parks director that stirred national interest led eventually to the hiring of Eufaula’s Berkely Squires, “our best action,” Walker said. In the last two years, the board has overseen the construction of the rec center and, currently, navigated an uneasy co-existence with the expanding Exceptional Foundation.
One project left unfinished–establishing a Park and Recreation Foundation–Walker plans to pursue now that he is off the board.
Members present: Chris Meeks, chairman, Keith Stansell, Tom Walker, Michael Murray, and Tyler Vail.
Members absent: Paula Smalley, Becky Morton, Marjorie Trimm, and Tom Blake. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.
Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service director, Rusty Holley, park and recreation superintendent, Dianne Rice, board secretary and her assistant Angie Montgomery.
Audience attendance: 1
Approved minutes of the November 6, 2014, meeting.
Exceptional Foundation report: Facilities Committee Chairman Keith Stansell gave an informal overview of a meeting last week between several park board members and the Exceptional Foundation board. The goal was to negotiate a new shared-parking agreement with the non-profit facility that is in the middle of a major expansion. Briefly, the Exceptional Foundation agreed to the following conditions, at a minimum, which will be written into a revised agreement for a vote by the January park board meeting.
- Relocate a Dumpster and its enclosure onto its own property and out of sight of the rec center;
- By next month return the use of several parking spaces being used for construction staging, and immediately move offsite (to Manhattan Street) two construction vans that are taking up parking spaces.
- Give the park board ongoing one-month’s advance notice of its events that require parking and employ a parking lot attendant during events (for what reason is unclear). The park board staff will also share calendar information in advance; however, the park board has priority on shared parking spaces.
Heard a “refreshing” Homewood Soccer Club annual report: Soccer board president David Condon introduced the program’s new director, Mason Cook, who was hired in March to replace the former, controversial, director David Putnam. Mr. Cook had been on the staff as a coach since 2008 and rose through the ranks before being hired.
Putnam had frustrated the board with his free-wheeling management style, which included using his personal funds to float loans to the club, running year to year deficits, making executive decisions that properly belonged to a board, and building a competitive team program some members felt was subsidized by high fees charged to local rec teams.
Mr. Cook’s report showed said the program enrollment had grown by 152 players over the past year, as follows:
2013 PATRIOT (RECREATIONAL) -450
2013 MID-LEVEL TEAMS – 139
2013 COMPETITIVE TEAMS – 314
2014 PATRIOT – 525
2014 MID-LEVEL – 167
2014 COMPETITIVE – 363
Part of the explanation for the growth was interest in the World Cup, Mr. Cook said. Asked if the growth was in new Homewood residents or outside recruits, Mr. Cook said about two-thirds of the entire program enrollment are from Homewood, with most being at the younger level and bringing in more outside players in the older and competitive teams. He did not have specific numbers to present.
Reforms sought by the park board and implemented by the club over the last year include requiring players to demonstrate financial need with free school lunch eligibility before granting financial aid/scholarships, and giving scholarships based only on financial need, not athletic talent. The club had been criticized for recruiting older, talented athletes with fee waivers. Also, uncollected fees are at a respectable 1.5% of the budget, drawing applause from the board. Mr. Cook said the Homewood program differs from others locally in not charging competitive players a “Team Fee” or after-season charges for such things as coaches’ hotel and meal expenses while traveling.
Also this year, the club had a successful fundraiser at Good People Brewing, raising $14,000, mainly through a silent auction.
Questions remain: Despite the positive report and praise from the board, Mr. Squires said he thought the competitive teams were still being supported too much by rec team fees–a practice he would like to see reduced even further. Pointing out that a recreational player may have only 9 “nights” of play, he said he would like to see the registration fee come down further and be more proportional to the time young children spent playing.
However, Mr. Condon and Mr. Cook both disagreed with suggestions that the club further reduce financial aid from its current level of $22,195 (of fees waived). They said as long as financial aid was based strictly on need, the club thought it was proper to offer even more financial aid. Much of the fundraising was geared toward providing more financial aid gifts, they said.
Mr. Cook followed his report with a financial statement, showing net cash available this fall, after expenses, at $34,216.03. To see the financial statement, click here.