It’s crunch time for Meadville Area Recreation Complex.
Emails began to fly through the community Thursday, launching an all-out effort to inspire residents, corporate leaders and officials to come together to help generate ideas about how to make a recreation complex of its size financially viable in a community of this size. The messages are spreading the word that a town hall meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the assembly room at Meadville Medical Center’s Grove Street facility. Participants are being asked to “please come prepared to be asked for ideas and input, not donations.”
The February meeting — and an aggressive publicity campaign — is being organized by the MARC Town Hall Committee, headed by Vernon Township resident and Meadville businessman Jay Verno, who also serves as the authority’s vice chairperson.
Following the money
During a Thursday interview with the Tribune, Executive Director Mike Fisher, who has headed the rec complex since May 1991, reminisced about the glory days of 2010.
For the first time, Fisher recalled, user fees combined with income from the authority’s financial partners — Crawford Central School District, the City of Meadville and West Mead and Vernon townships — had finally put the authority on what looked like firm financial ground.
“They were able to put money into a capital reserve fund to do the kind of improvements we’re going to have to do to this 36-year-old facility,” Fisher said. “We just thought we were turning a corner.”
Not much later, he continued, Crawford Central School Board announced that the $262,000 payment made during the district’s 2009-2010 fiscal year for use of the facility was going to be bumped down to $200,000 for the following year. In 2011-2012, the payment bounced back up a bit to $206,000. “At no time did we ever think Crawford Central would pull completely out,” Fisher said.
However, for its 2012-13 fiscal year, which began in June 2012 and ends in July, the school board eliminated swimming classes that had been part of its elementary and secondary curriculum and dropped its payment to the authority to $103,000; at the time, the school board noted that the payment had not been eliminated entirely in an effort to give the complex an opportunity to find a new partner for daytime pool use.
“I understand that Crawford Central has an obligation to educate students — and they have to do what they have to do,” Fisher said. “It’s just unfortunate.”
For 2013, the City of Meadville budgeted $125,000 for the authority, West Mead Township budgeted $57,500 and Vernon Township budgeted $40,000. The authority also expects to generate an additional $566,000 in fees and charges.
However, looking forward to Crawford Central’s coming fiscal year, “The school district wants to pay us nothing,” Fisher said. “They are asking us for an hourly rate for the pool, the baseball and soccer fields and the tennis courts. But if you can’t find people to take the (daytime) pool time, how do you come up with a number for them that might be workable?”
Unable to locate new partners to take over the now-available daytime pool time, the authority is now on the hunt for other income-generating options.
“I would hope that the community can come together to find a way to make it a self-sustaining program,” Crawford Central School Board President Jan VanTuil said Thursday.
“It was a multiple-year process to make the decision to withdraw it from the curriculum — one that we waited as long as we could to make,” she continued. “We continued to look at the entire school day and the classes our students take.
“We are trying to make our school day as curricularly weighted as possible,” VanTuil said. “In other words, all of our moneys need to go to core curriculum. Although the rec complex and the services it provides are very, very valuable, they’re not going to be what makes our students successful students.”
It was, she added, a hard decision. “In no way are we trying to hurt the facility in any way. We want the facility to succeed. ... But $200,000 keeps four teachers in classrooms.”
Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff is also rooting for the complex to succeed.
“Obviously the MARC offers recreational opportunities for the residents of the city,” Soff said Thursday. “Everything I hear from local employers and real estate agents is that it is a huge asset — and a selling point for them in trying to locate people to the City of Meadville. They point to the rec complex specifically — the ability to have a complex like this in a town of our size is rare.”
However, Soff continued, “we have to view it as we have to view everything in our city. It’s not enough to say that we want it to be here. We have to work for that. We have to support it.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s crunch time for Meadville Area Recreation Complex.
- Local News
West Mead likely to avoid cable fee in wake of public outcry
It appears unlikely that the township will levy a cable franchise fee in the immediate future, a move that would have increased township residents’ Armstrong cable bills.
Bill offers protection to drug overdose witnesses
Witnesses to a drug overdose would be able to call 911 without facing charges of drug use or possession once police arrive, under a bill that passed the state Senate unanimously on Tuesday.
Senior project, student body gathers items for troops
Of the countless charities and causes she could’ve chosen to benefit with her senior project, Meghan Leri wanted most of all to donate to U.S. soldiers.
Up to eight inches of snow expected for Crawford County on Wednesday
A lake effect snow advisory that is in effect from Wednesday at 6 a.m. to Thursday at 4 a.m. could dump upwards of eight inches on Crawford County Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Your input sought in Vernon traffic survey
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released an online survey for local residents to weigh in on their driving experience with the Route 322 corridor between Route 19/98 and the former Meadville Mall area.
Meadville may be getting out of restaurant inspection business
The City of Meadville may soon be going out of the restaurant inspection business. During its monthly meeting on Dec. 18, Meadville City Council will decide whether to put the wheels into motion to follow the lead of every other municipality in Crawford County, including Titusville, by putting the eating, drinking and retail food establishments operating within city limits under the inspection jurisdiction of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Jamestown girls basketball team rallies behind coach in successful battle against prostate cancer
The first scrimmage of the season was just about over. Mike Seman, then an assistant coach with the Jamestown girls basketball team, couldn’t wait any longer.
Bills could change way child abuse is defined in Pa.
Cumbersome legal definitions of child abuse can stymie doctors, nurses and caseworkers who might believe a child is in danger, according to advocates lobbying for changes to the state’s child welfare system.
Ernst Trail full of runners for a good cause
About 15 minutes before the start of the race, Michael Katula III and his son Michael Gordon Katula, clad in red and green, took a few warm-up jogs near the starting line at the Ernst Trail Mercer Pike trailhead.
SUNDAY ISSUE: Is 'Obamacare' a success or failure?
Seeking to regroup from his health care law’s disastrous rollout, President Barack Obama has insisted that the sweeping overhaul is working and warned Republican critics that he would fight any efforts to strip away its protections.
- More Local News Headlines
- West Mead likely to avoid cable fee in wake of public outcry