By Mary Spicer
The retirement of the Meadville Area Recreation Complex’s longtime executive director, the Crawford Central School District’s 2013-14 contribution to the MARC and plans for the complex’s future were the items discussed during a special meeting convened by Meadville Area Recreation Authority early Tuesday morning.
The first order of business was Executive Director Mike Fisher’s announcement that he will retire at the end of the year after 23 years at the facility’s helm.
“There are a number of reasons,” Fisher said. “I’ve talked to my wife — now is the time.”
Fisher has submitted a letter to Chairman Joe McDougal indicating his intent to retire.
“Now we’ve got to roll up our sleeves,” Fisher said. “We have a lot of work to do in the next six months.”
The meeting, in large part, was convened to discuss Crawford Central School District’s contribution to the MARC for the 2013-14 school year, which McDougal said the school district considers to total $155,400. While this is short of the $200,000-plus MARC was receiving from the district on an annual basis until recent years, it was still significantly above the $66,700 level put forth by the school board during recent discussions of the district’s 2013-14 budget.
According to McDougal, the school district has agreed to absorb the authority’s share of the annual cost of the biomass system installed several years ago on the parklike campus that includes the MARC as well as Meadville area middle and high schools and Crawford County Career & Technical Center. This includes the $62,700 payment on the loan used to finance construction of the biomass facility and $26,700 in operating costs for the unit. An additional $40,000 to offset the cost of the after-school swim team program was also included, reaching a total of $129,400.
According to Fisher, the district intends for its use of MARC facilities, including the baseball field and tennis courts, to be offset by the contribution to the biomass system.
In its calculation, the district also included a $16,000 transportation cost to bus the district’s fourth grade students from all five elementary schools to the MARC for swimming classes during the school day as well as $10,000 for upgrades to the facility’s soccer field that will be performed by school district workers in its contribution.
“There’s really not going to be a lot of money exchanged,” Fisher said.
Tim Groves, the City of Meadville’s finance director, who was present for the meeting, noted that the fact that the complex operates on a January to December fiscal year while the school district’s fiscal year runs July to June complicates projections of exactly what funds will be available when.
To complicate things even further, McDougal pointed out that if the pool remains open during the winter season, which was not included in the authority’s current budget, the authority is looking at a substantial shortfall.
“We still have to work out how to bridge the gap between the end of summer and the beginning of the indoor swimming season in the fall,” McDougal said.
Involving the whole community
The authority’s first order of business is finding ways to close that short-term financial gap — and members agreed that the first step in accomplishing that goal is to establish a “controlling committee” consisting of two members of the authority and two Community Action Team members. The authority will be represented on the controlling committee by Roger Gildea and Jay Verno.
One of the first goals of the controlling committee, according to Gildea, will be to put a plan into motion to create community wellness partnerships involving community players including medical facilities, insurers, the gas industry, corporate human resources executives, Allegheny College and local church and civic groups.
Authority members are also looking forward to boosting levels of community involvement with the upcoming MARCaribbean, the popular annual fundraising event at the complex.
As for the future of management at the MARC, “The first thing we’re going to do is review the entire personnel structure to include job descriptions,” McDougal told the Tribune Tuesday afternoon, noting that anything that has to do with that line item on the budget will be looked at.
“We need to decide what we want to look like in the future,” he continued. “Do we need an executive director? A facilities director?”
McDougal said it’s also important for authority members to know what the community thinks should be done to draw more people to use the complex.
“The core competencies are the skating and the swimming pool,” he said. “Everything else is like an add-on. You don’t make money renting the baseball field or having people sit in picnic shelters.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.