Continuing today, The Meadville Tribune presents the most important Crawford County-area news stories of 2013 as voted upon by you, the readers. Weeks ago, we asked readers to narrow down about 25 of the year’s stories to a top 15, and the following are the results.
The stories voted Nos. 15 through 11 ran on Saturday and Nos. 10 through 7 ran on Sunday. Today, we’ll provide 6 through 4; 3 and 2 is Tuesday and the top story runs on New Year’s Day, Wednesday.
In February, Meadville Area Recreation Authority took a turn in an interesting direction.
Faced with a future described as “uncertain” at best in the wake of a decision by Crawford Central School Board to phase out financial support for Meadville Area Recreation Complex that had once exceeded a quarter of a million dollars per year, the authority made a decision of its own. Instead of cutting services and hunkering down to live within stringent new means, authority members decided to make a concentrated effort to attract new revenues. And instead of focusing on meeting the programming needs of the school district, their top priority since the facility opened more than four decades ago, they opted to see where a focus on meeting the programming wants of the community would take them.
The first step, taken in February, was to hold a community town hall meeting to try to figure out exactly what those programming wants might be.
In a conference room filled to capacity at Meadville Medical Center’s Grove Street facility, a seed was planted that quickly grew into the Community Advisory Team, an all-volunteer group formed in March with the goal of guiding the MARC into a thriving future.
With the authority’s 12-member board working closely with CAT volunteers, the process of community outreach has already begun. The restoration of a Crawford Central School Board member to a seat on the authority followed passage of the school district’s 2013-14 budget, which included some funding for the complex. Jon DeArment was appointed by Meadville City Council to the seat vacated by the resignation of Carol Jones when the district originally withdrew funding.
A major staff change was put into motion in early June when Executive Director Mike Fisher, who has headed the organization since 1991, announced his intent to retire.
Shortly before Fisher’s Aug. 31 retirement, the authority announced a major organizational restructuring, eliminating the title of executive director and creating two new titles — operations manager and facility manager. The job descriptions created for the newly-created titles combined the duties performed by Fisher, Assistant Director Chris Nuzback and Maintenance Supervisor Nick Maurceri. Nuzback, who has served as assistant director since Fisher was hired as director, was named operations manager; Mauceri was named facility manager.
At the authority’s annual reorganization meeting in January, long-time chairman Joe McDougal passed the gavel to Roger Gildea, who had served as vice-chairman.
Responses to joint authority/CAT outreach to local businesses have been so positive that Gildea is now optimistic about the future. “Our short-term goal was to close the budget gap during the next two to three years, and I’m confident we’re going to make it,” he said. “Our next step is to get together with CAT to map out the next steps.”
As for the community, “I am greatly encouraged by not only the interest that the discussions have sparked but the partnerships that so far have been forged — and the ones that appear to be on the horizon,” Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff said. “I think everyone will tell you that for the rec complex to succeed and prosper in the future, it will take a total community effort — and that appears to be what is happening. I’m encouraged.”