Director’s resignation raises Selectmen’s questions
HANSON — The Board of Selectmen and Recreation Commission are working to determine the future direction of the commission going forward with the start of a new year.
Town Administrator Mike McCue, in December, announced to Selectmen that Recreation Director Joshua Wolf has resigned from the post, effective Dec. 31.
“We’re working on a transition,” McCue said. “If there’s a good time for this to happen, this is an optimal time, since it’s a slow time.”
Selectman Matt Dyer will be directly involved in the process, since the Board had voted to place him in the Recreation liaison position. He indicated that the Recreation Commission preferred a town-wide mission.
“We’ll take a look to see do we move forward as things are now or are there things that we want to shift and change?” McCue said.
He also said he was glad to see a willingness to change direction on Recreation as a town-wide mission, instead of solely on Camp Kiwanee as has happened over the last several years.
Selectman Wes Blauss had pointed out — and Administrative Assistant Merry Marini has confirmed —that over the last several years there had been an addition of responsibility to the commission rather than the exclusion of town-wide recreation.
“I have been talking for quite some time about redefining what the Recreation Commission does to handle everything in town,” McCue said. “I think now that we need to brush off what was always there — it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
That authority has always been there, but for a lot of different reasons attention had been drawn more toward Kiwanee, he explained.
“I think [McCue] just called it ‘mission drift,’” Blauss agreed. A Cranberry Cove Management Committee had been formed in the 1940s to oversee the beach area and in 1972 the Recreation Commission was formed to do town-wide recreation. In 1979 the town bought the Camp and the Camp Kiwanee Management Committee was formed with three committees at work on their own projects by that time.
“There came a point when the Camp Kiwanee Committee and the Cranberry Cove Committee were at each others’ throats over drainage and Recreation was sort of withering,” Blauss recalled. “The executive secretary said … we’re going to combine them all into Recreation.”
The only changes since have been the reduction in commission membership from nine to seven.
“Recreation has never been about Camp Kiwanee, but I do think … it’s drifted over the last 10 years and more attention was on the camp … and everything sort of drifted,” he said. “I don’t think the mission needs to change, I just think we need to remember it was a town-wide thing.”
That was good news to the ears of Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett and Dyer, who described a meeting a few weeks before where Recreation Commission members had said they were focusing on the Camp because that was what they had been told to do, despite wanting to do town-wide projects.
The position of Town Planner, meanwhile, is being redefined as primarily town planning and support of the Planning Board and ZBA has been supported by the Planning Board, McCue reported.
“But, as I think we’ve seen, subdivisions and things that the Planning Board needs to deal with sometimes peak and valley,” he said, noting he had initially proposed a new position of community development director to support Planning and Appeals. “However, in those slower times, the responsibilities would shift to grant-writing and economic development.”
But creating the new position would have required a Town Meeting vote, meaning a longer process, so McCue argued that rolling the extra development responsibilities into the current job description made more sense. Making the position full time is possible because of extra funds voted at special Town Meeting into the salary line.
It will now pertain to the interim Planner, but the position will also be posted to allow anyone with the needed experience to apply for the post. The Selectmen were asked, in their role as the Personnel Board, to amend the job description last month.
Rec Commission eyes increases for weddings, beach passes
HANSON — The Recreation Commission is again faced with the need to replace a Recreation Director with the resignation last month of Joshua Wolf. The commission, which met in the library of the camp’s Needles Lodge Monday, Jan. 7, also discussed potential increases in lodge rentals and beach passes for the coming year.
Chairman Diane Cohen said she would be meeting with Town Administrator Michael McCue the next day [Tuesday, Jan. 8] to discuss future plans for the director’s position.
Commission members did opt to take no action toward further consideration of a proposal from former member Rachel Gross, who works in the event-planning industry. While some had doubts about Gross’ time commitment, Cohen and Selectmen Matt Dyer, who serves as the board’s liaison to the Recreation Commission, urged that the decision be limited to what McCue and Dyer termed “sketchy optics” of a former Recreation Commission member presenting a proposal that could benefit a company they own.
McCue does not recommend going that route, Dyer said.
“It’s almost like we’re vendoring out the Rec director’s job,” commission member Brian Smith said. “Can we do that?”
Member Brian Fruzetti had questioned Gross’ follow-through and noted that some of her proposals were “similar to other Recreation programs in other local towns” or had previously been discussed by Hanson’s Recreation Commission.
Cohen said Gross, a single parent, had been “very torn” about her decision to leave the Recreation Commission and said that had little to do with her proposal.
“Is this a route we want to go, whether it’s with Rachel or anybody else is really the matter at hand, I’d say,” Cohen argued.
Fruzetti said the proposal was akin to privatizing the recreation programs and had been raised a long time ago.
“It didn’t turn out to be very good,” he said.
Cohen disagreed with that characterization.
“To me, it’s more of a, ‘What can we get going here, who can we make connections with?’ [scenario],” she said. “I view it as someone to get us started and us maintaining once the [three- to six-month] contract is up.”
But Cohen appreciated the other members’ concerns.
“Before you go off and privatize, I would recommend that the commission hold one or two events per month just to hold yourselves over until you get another Recreation Director,” Dyer said.
While the Recreation Commission agreed to hold off on a vote about increasing wedding fees at this time, they did voice support for increasing fees for weddings in the lodge and beach passes for 2020.
Fee action delay
Both were tabled and are planned to be on the agenda for the commission’s next meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 28 at Needles Lodge.
“I think it’s time to go up on everything,” Fruzetti said. But Dyer urged caution on beach fees.
Smith argued the Recreation Commission is “taking a beating” at the Cove and are not even breaking even.
“The Cove is always going to be in the red because it’s supposed to be offset by things at the lodge,” Dyer said. “That’s how we set up the business plan for the Cove. You guys can change that business plan if you want, but I would highly advise against it because this is a service you provide the public, it is not a revenue center.”
It is also the nature of providing a public service.
“You guys are in the business or providing a service,” Dyer said. “We lose money on the schools, we loose money on the police and we lose money on fire services. You are just as equal as any other government department. We’re here to provide service, we’re not here to make money off residents.”
He said that, while it is OK to charge a fee to keep afloat, the Recreation commission should look to wedding fees to support other programs.
Beach Director Emma Mousette outlined the beach pass proposal.
She and Cohen had discussed creating an individual season pass in addition to family passes because they had been approached by residents requesting single passes. Day passes would stay at $5 per person.
Individual senior passes — senior citizen rates kick in at age 65 — would be $30 per person and $50 for other individuals age 16 and over. Non-resident individual passes would be $60.
In-town family passes would increase in price by $5, bringing them to $85 each. A $5 increase for non-resident passes would move the cost up to $155 for the season.
“That’s basically to cover minimum wage going up,” Mousette said. “We sold a lot of day passes last year — more than we’ve ever sold — and I do not see that happening again if we increase it by $5.”
The increases, as well as the unpopular “adult swim” periods are necessary to fund lifeguard minimum wages as well as providing required break times to ensure public safety, according to Mousette.
“The guard needs a break for 15 minutes every hour by law, so they can rest, recharge and rehydrate so they can come back and be attentive to the water,” she said. “The Cove has used adult swim rather than a rotating guard because it saves money since you’re not paying a fourth guard.”
The law requires that at least two guards on duty at one time.
Dyer also said an increase in day pass prices would increase the need to keep cash at the gate for change and would create the need for a secure place to keep that extra cash after the bank closes at 5 p.m.
“When you run out of ones, whose going to bring in ones?” he said. “If you go up to $10 for an entry, it’s way too much.”
Adult swim saves money, Dyer said.
Lockers, also requested by beach-goers last year were not approved because the commission did not want to be responsible for overnight storage or chasing down residents at the end of the season to have them clear out their lockers.
Wedding fee increases will be steeper, if the commission approves Cohen’s recommendation.
Cohen was seeking a $500 — or 10-percent increase — for weddings. She sited needed repairs in the kitchen and pending minimum wage increases as driving forces behind the suggestion. Utility costs are also increasing.
Dyer said the commission could look at two different business plans for weddings — a higher cost for more luxury weddings apart from the regular prices or set a lower rate to bring in a larger number of weddings. But the camp is already booked from April through to the beginning of November.
Dyer also suggested a peak and off-season price breakdown. Currently the lodge is not booked for winter weddings.
Commission member John Zucco recommended researching similar venues in the region before going ahead with any increases.
“One of the draws to having a wedding at Camp Kiwanee is you get to be outside,” Cohen said.
Members said there are people who plan outdoor weddings in the winter for photos in the snow.
“Another piece to the puzzle in figuring out your rates will be your baseline operating costs,” Dyer said.
Cohen said they would seek McCue’s recommendation, but still preferred a 10-percent fee increase, although she would consider a seasonal price breakdown before voting on the issue.
“Some money is better than none,” she said.