Rec center transition smooth, say officials

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

Amid some controversy, the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula officially took over the management of the Kenai Recreation Center on Tuesday.

The city of Kenai passed the management reins of the center over to the club on the first day of the new fiscal year, in compliance with a partnership agreement the city council approved May 21 that contracts the club to run the city-owned facility.

According to city officials, the switch went without any glitches.

"I'd characterize the transition as going smoothly," said Bob Frates, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Kenai. "I think it was very important from the outset for both organizations to make it as seamless as possible and I think we have achieved that goal and will most certainly continue to work in that direction."

City Manager Linda Snow agreed. She visited the facility at 8 a.m. Tuesday and said she found everything to be in order.

Boys and Girls Club representatives did not have time to comment on how the change went last week.

Under the partnership agreement, the club is required to manage the rec center and Teen

Center, provide maintenance and repairs to center equipment and provide janitorial services for the facility, while the city is responsible for maintenance and repairs to the building, utility costs and providing $125,000 to the club each year to help pay for the management of the facility. According to the city, this arrangement will save it $87,000 in a cash-strapped deficit budget.

All the same services offered at the center under the city's management are still offered now that the club has taken over, and the club will continue to honor the punch cards issued under the city's management.

"There were people in there using the facility," Snow said of her Tuesday visit. "It absolutely seems like the transition was seamless."

Not everyone is pleased with the change in management, however. The Friends of the Kenai Recreation Center group has submitted a referendum petition to the city to have the voters of Kenai to decide whether the club should run the center. The city is being taken to court over the matter on Tuesday, as well.

Friends chair Mark Necessary of Kenai, said Thursday that he had not been to the center since the management change on Tuesday, so he couldn't comment on it.

The main noticeable change at the center right now is that the Teen Center is closed for painting and maintenance. It will reopen July 11.

When it does, it will likely lose some patrons, due to the the management change.

Isabel Cantal, 15, and Michael Myers, 16, were outside the center Thursday and said they weren't happy about the switch, though they had not been in the center since the management change.

"All our friends used to meet there, and now they won't come (because they don't like the club)," Myers said.

The teens were not happy about the prospect of having to become club members to use the teen center facility.

"Every activity they have you have to pay for," Myers said.

Club representatives have said in past city council meetings that any child or teen wishing to become a member can do so, and there are scholarships available for that purpose.

The change in personnel may be noticeable to any regular center users, as well. City-employed rec center workers were replaced by club employees. According to Frates, no former city rec center workers were retained up by the club. Snow said it was her understanding that none applied for club positions, but did not know that for sure.

Another change is the Parks and Recreation Department is no longer headquartered at the rec center. Frates has moved his office to 410 N. Willow St., and can be reached a 283-3692. The new fax number is 283-3693. The rec center can still be reached at 283-3855.

"I think so far it's kind of been business as usual," Frates said. "There's the same level of excellent customer service and I think that (the club) is going to continue to run a clean, safe facility for which the entire community can be proud of."

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