FORCE: City recreation center should stay under public control

Posted: Thursday, June 05, 2003

Friends of the Kenai Recreation Center (FORCE) is a group of Kenai residents and voters that formed recently to oppose the city of Kenai administration's plan to turn over the Kenai Recreation Center to a private group, the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula, beginning July 1.

Under the proposed contract, the city would give total control over the center to the Boys and Girls Club for the next three years (renewable for five-year periods), pay the Boys and Girls Club at least $125,000 in tax dollars a year, the Boys and Girls Club would keep all center revenue (approximately $80,000 last year), and the club would get to use the center facility and equipment for their programs for free. (By comparison, in April, the Boys and Girls Club rented the recreation center gym for 45 hours, which is $900 in potential revenue.) The city would pay all Boys and Girls Club maintenance, repair and utilities ($32,000 budgeted for fiscal year 2004) and other costs. The Boys and Girls Club doesn't have to make any definite commitments about what programs it will (or won't) keep, what fees it will charge or what it will do with the recreation center facility. The Boys and Girls Club has no accountability to Kenai taxpayers meetings and records aren't required to be open to the public. Several recreation center employees will lose their jobs. The Teen Center and City League Basketball will no longer exist as we know them. This contract was never put out for competitive bid.

There is overwhelming public opposition to this plan:

At five public meetings in April and May, everyone who testified was against this plan (except people affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs);

455 people Kenai voters, Kenai residents and Kenai Recreation Center users from all over the peninsula signed a petition opposing this plan; and

The Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-1 against this plan at its meeting May 15.

Despite this opposition, on May 21, without allowing public comment, the Kenai City Council voted 4-2 to approved the plan (Bookey, Moore, Porter and Williams vs. Jackman and Osborn). We think there are other, better options for the Kenai Recreation Center. So on May 23, FORCE filed a petition with the city asking for a vote of the people on the Boys and Girls Club contract we need at least 350 Kenai voter signatures by June 19. If you agree with us that city facilities should stay public or that contracting to run city facilities should be done in an open, competitive process, please sign the petition.

For more information, call 283-4234.

Mark Necessary

FORCE chair

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