PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF NOVEMBER 11, 2009
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on November 11, 2009 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Chairman Andrew Levine, Vice Chairman Joel Grosso, Brian Bark, Kathy Kelly, and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance was Kathy Pawlenko, Park and Recreation Director.
Call to Order: Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Summer Camp Programs: Mr. Levine told the Board that the Township’s Park and Recreation budget will not meet expenses. The Board of Supervisors has asked the Park and Recreation Board to look into expanding the Township’s camp programs to increase revenue. Ideas the Supervisors would like explored are partnerships with Wrightstown and Upper Makefield to host camps in Wrightstown and Sol Feinstone Elementary Schools.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she did not think Wrightstown Elementary’s facilities were adequate for a camp. She had run programs there during hot weather and it was too uncomfortable for the children. She does not have a facilities use agreement with Sol Feinstone. She explained that in recent years the camps have not filled to capacity, so she does not know whether there is enough interest in an additional site. Advertising for an additional camp would need to begin very quickly. A site supervisor and staff as well as start-up supplies would be needed. She explained that included in the staffing and supplies are the background checks for prospective employees and pre-payment for trips and transportation.
Mr. Levine agreed that he was hesitant to recommend a new site when there has not been a need demonstrated. He asked Mrs. Pawlenko to provide the members with some information about the costs associated with a new location, including facilities fees, staffing and supplies.
The Board discussed the pricing for the current camp offerings. Mrs. Pawlenko noted that if camps are offered at Sol Feinstone she was not sure about non-resident pricing. She has contacted Sol Feinstone about using the facilities but has not gotten a response. She does not know whether the school would be available for a camp program. She also pointed out that Northampton is not raising its camp prices this year.
Mr. Grosso said that the camps should be providing a service to the community. In the current economy he did not think raising prices would be a good idea. He noted that some private camps and those offered at George School and Bucks County Community College are not much more expensive than the Township camps. He asked for comparison information on other municipalities’ prices.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she has looked into the College and Northampton camps. Neither are proposing increased pricing. Although their current fees are somewhat higher than Newtown’s, Northampton and the College are able to offer daily swimming. Northampton is able to offer a longer extended AM and PM day because it is using its own facilities rather than school buildings.
Mr. Bark agreed that he did not want to increase the camp fees. He suggested offering greater discounts for early enrollment but not charging additionally for non-residents. He suggested tiered registration with early enrollment limited to residents at a 30% discount, with subsequent tiers open to non-residents at a reduced rate. This could lead to an increase in enrollment; the possible increase in non-resident enrollment would make it possible to gauge interest in a Sol Feinstone camp. Perhaps the Sol Feinstone camp could be offered to registrants with the caveat that if there was not sufficient enrollment, the children would attend the Newtown camps.
After some further discussion it was agreed that the goal would be to fill the currently offered camps while planning for a Sol Feinstone camp for next year.
Resident Perry Katz said that he would support the Township’s leaving camp fees at the same level as last year. This would show the residents that the Township is sensitive to the residents needs in tough economic times.
Mr. Levine summed up the discussion as a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors: the camps should strive for increased volume at very competitive pricing. The Park and Recreation Board is recommending that the camp registration be offered in three tiers:
Mrs. Pawlenko reviewed with the Park and Recreation Board the attendance records for Newtown’s three camps from past years. Only 11% of campers were from other municipalities, the bulk of those from Newtown Borough. The camps were not filled to capacity last year.
Mr. Levine said that the Board does not want the camps to fail or to provide campers with any bad experiences. The Board agreed with him to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Department not offer a full addition of new locations this year, in part because of the cost to the Department of providing supplies and staff to additional locations. Because of the conditions at Wrightstown Elementary School, the Board does not think it is a viable location for a camp. It is the Park and Recreation Board’s recommendation that the Park and Recreation Director explore the possibility of contracting with Sol Feinstone Elementary School for a camp program and explore interest of Upper Makefield for a future partnership for a summer camp program. If such arrangements prove feasible, it is the Park and Recreation Board’s recommendation that plans begin for an Upper Makefield summer camp, providing there is sufficient interest among early registrants. This would be pursued in 2011.
Mr. Levine suggested that the Board and Recreation Director investigate pricing and offerings of local private camps including Briarwood and NAC before finalizing a pricing structure.
Mr. Grosso, Mrs. Sutton and Mrs. Kelly agreed that the Township camps are not a private, for-profit, business but a service to the residents. They agreed they would recommend that the Department should keep pricing low in the current economy.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that the Recreation Department is self sufficient. Programming and camps have been meeting the department’s goals of increasing programming, participation, self-sufficiency and variety. Park maintenance is the strain on the Department’s budget.
Mr. Levine said that he agrees that the recreation portion of the budget is neutral. It does not strain the Township’s budget. He expressed some concern that the park maintenance costs would increase, particularly with acquisition of additional open space.
Field Usage: Mr. Levine reported that the Board of Supervisors had asked the Township engineer to provide information on parking at Helen Randle Park. The engineer found that the parking is not adequate when all fields are in use. He suggested that going forward, as part of the field usage permitting process, leagues and organizations hosting events should be required to present documentation that arrangements are in place for use of the College parking lots.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that the leagues are already making such arrangement, and during tournaments are also contracting with off-duty police for traffic and crossing details.
Mrs. Pawlenko provided members with a comparison chart showing Newtown’s field usage fees as compared with other neighboring municipalities and school districts.
Mr. Grosso said that because of the economy, Little League has not raised its registration fees. Parents of players contribute to the field maintenance. He suggested a more formal arrangement of field maintenance in exchange for fees. This is done with Newtown Borough and Pickering Field.
Mrs. Pawlenko said she has some concerns because while the sports leagues do contribute to field maintenance, it becomes difficult when leagues and different sports share field usage.
Mr. Grosso suggested that a maintenance arrangement could be tested at Chandler Fields, as only Little League uses the facilities.
Mrs. Pawlenko said she would need to review Little League’s agreement with Newtown Borough before she could comment on such an arrangement.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that the new Web site is up and running. She expects to be accepting credit card payments on line shortly. At this point, participation and revenues are down slightly over 2008. She hoped that the easy on-line registration might help to increase participation.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that the Department’s goal is to become paperless, but the brochure is the Department’s most effective means of communication and marketing. In an attempt to at least reduce the cost of printing, she has investigated a newsprint quality brochure which can be reproduced at about half the cost of the current brochure. She is also working with the Township’s Newsletter to include more program advertising.
The Bio-sun Composting Toilet should be installed by December.
The Woll tract is about 90% complete. She did not know whether scoreboards were part of the original bid. She will investigate this further.
The Township Building will be completed by the end of the year. Community rooms in the building will be available for programming. This will save facilities fees; it will also establish an image of quality Park and Recreation programming for the Township.
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that she has applied to the DEP for a grant for the concrete floor on the barn at Clark Nature Center.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Levine moved to accept the minutes of October 7, 2009. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Member Comments: Mr. Levine reported that he has been in correspondence with Mr. McGuigan, Chairman of the Township’s EAC about cooperating jointly on wildlife management in the Township’s parks and open space. Mr. McGuigan has been using the Heritage Conservancy information on the Clark Nature Center as a research tool in preparing recommendations for the Supervisors.
The Board agreed to meet jointly with the EAC after the new year.
Mrs. Kelly moved to adjourn at 9:30 PM. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary