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Without town funds, Recreation Comm. faces extinction


TOWNSEND — The Recreation Commission may not exist in 18 months unless the town restores funding it withdrew five years ago.

Representatives from the Recreation Commission met with the Finance Committee March 6 to plead their case for $22,000 in funding to pay for wages to run the town’s recreation programs.

“We are doing everything that we can down to the literal bare bones, and we have five people that are committed,” said Recreation Commission Chairman Sharon Whittier. “We don’t want to see this program go under, but that’s what we’re faced with if we don’t get some money back from the town to go into the program.”

According to Whittier, the town asked the department to become self-sufficient five years ago.

“We had said that yes, we would consider doing that because at that point we did have money in our revolving account that we felt would sustain us for a couple of years. That was five years ago,” Whittier said.

Since then, costs have gone up, leaving the recreation department with dwindling funds. Particularly, the cost of paying Summer Recreation counselors has risen significantly due to the positions’ inclusion on a town wage matrix that requires slight raises every year.

Whittier said to keep the program afloat, the commission may have to raise rates for programs such as Summer Recreation.

“I am adamantly against charging hundreds of dollars for programs just to break even if we can fund it some other way,” Whittier said.

Recreation Director Emy Hoff has worked hard to cut costs while maintaining strong programs, Whittier said, but the group won’t be able to sustain itself for much longer.

“We’ve done all sorts of comebacks but we simply can’t do it anymore. Recreation will be defunct in a year and a half,” Whittier said.

Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan, who was not working for the town when the funding was withdrawn, said that from his research, the elimination of town funding was meant to be permanent.

Sheehan said that based on minutes from Board of Selectmen meetings and conversations with Greg Barnes, who was town administrator at the time, the cuts were never intended to be temporary.

The request now would have to be addressed by the Board of Selectmen, he said.

Finance Committee member Carolyn Smart said it was important to listen to the concerns and review the Recreation Commission’s request.

“This is a department that is coming because they have additional costs and we need to be open to that and listen to that and not kind of dismiss it,” Smart said.

Whittier said she hoped to make residents aware of the problem so that they could make a decision.

“Let the people say, yeah, this is a good program, 165 kids served every single summer. People need to say whether they want to continue or not, it’s not up to us, it’s up to the town. That’s what we were voted in to do,” Whittier said.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.