Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 29, 2013

Analysis, recommendations first up for MARC Community Action Team

MEADVILLE — With the fate of Meadville Area Recreational Complex apparently hanging in the balance, the newly-formed Community Action Team is gearing up to swing into action — and Crawford Central School Board waits.

And that, school board President Jan VanTuil, Vice President Jon DeArment and West Mead Township resident and founding CAT member Doug Lang agree, is what’s supposed to be happening at this point.

During the school board’s recent monthly meeting, founding CAT members Jack Lynch and Dennis Finton called for the school district to continue to provide financial support for the complex long enough for CAT to put proverbial ducks in a row and develop a sustainable strategic plan for the facility.

“We have been told to allow the process to work,” VanTuil told the Tribune after the school board meeting, referring to an earlier discussion involving VanTuil, DeArment, Lang and Meadville Area Recreation Authority Vice President Roger Gildea.

During a Thursday telephone interview, Lang, who was out of town during the school board meeting, agreed.

With the school board’s annual budget season about to begin, CAT members are asking the board to include $200,000 in its 2013-14 budget — a reduction from the $260,000 the district provided to the facility at its highest level of support but a far cry from the total elimination of support in 2013-14 the school board announced at the beginning of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

As Lang put it, the school board and CAT are both struggling to wrap their heads around a number of issues.

While CAT is trying to figure out exactly how to get started — a process that involves establishing both short- and long-term goals — the school board is trying to, as Lang put it, “get its head wrapped around what our group is, what it’s trying to accomplish and where we’re trying to take it.” In short, he continued, the board is trying to evaluate whether CAT is indeed a bona fide group — and whether the two groups can ultimately work together.

The initial request made during the school board’s recent meeting by CAT members for $200,000 in funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Lang said, “was only taking things at face value.”

During the next few weeks, he continued, CAT will be working “to put things together to have a more intelligent conversation with the school board about what they would need to do to help us.”

Two of what Lang described as “fast-track” pieces of the CAT plan involve putting together a financial analysis with some recommendations for moving forward while also working with the rec authority to add revenue streams. However, he added, that isn’t going to happen overnight. CAT goals include addressing a list of issues including revenue, operations, finance, culture and governance.

The plan, he continued, is to get that intelligent conversation under way by the time the school board is ready to start talking about its 2013-14 budget.

Until then, VanTuil and DeArment are willing to wait and see.

“The board is remaining quiet and allowing the process to take place,” VanTuil told the Tribune, “providing any data or information the group asks for — and anxiously awaiting their results.”

Although it may appear the board is doing nothing at this point, she added, “We feel we’re doing exactly what they asked us to do, which is to wait and let them do their job.”

“Jan and Jon have been respectful of our group — and our efforts to improve communications,” Lang said. “We’re trying to work together to build enough confidence to work together.”

The bottom line, he added, is that he’s “thrilled that the school board has agreed to reopen the issue.”

Rec Authority President Joe McDougal agreed — and he’s also looking forward to seeing what kind of recommendations come out of CAT efforts.

“The more input we get, the better,” McDougal told the Tribune. “It’s a community complex — the authority is just the caretakers. We’re glad people are putting together their thoughts.”

Mary Spicer can be reached at l724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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