Later opening time for facility?

Posted: July 23, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — If the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has its way, operating hours at the War Memorial Building won’t be trimmed.

Board members voted 5-0 Monday night to recommend not changing the building’s opening time from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. The proposed change, slated to begin in August, was discussed at the group’s June meeting.

Lisa Hamaker, the city’s interim parks and recreation director, said the recommendation will be forwarded to City Manager Dale Iman. He’ll make the final decision.

The change was proposed in the fiscal year 2014 budget by Brad Veach, the department’s former director. The adjustment would save $3,100 annually.

Five people — including three who said they’re 5:30 a.m. swimmers — spoke in favor of keeping the current schedule. The early morning swimmers said their ability to use the pool would be hampered by the change because the activity doesn’t fit in well with the rest of their schedules.

“I think you will lose some swimmers who will not be able to make the new start time,” said Martha Roberson of South Stewart Street.

Lynn Esslinger of Oak Ridge Lane said a loyal group of 10 people regularly swim before 6 a.m., and other people regularly use other parts of the facility.

Iman, however, said that contradicts information he’s received. Hamaker said that in June an average of only six people use the building’s facilities during its first 30 minutes of operation.

He also said the money was slated to be reprogrammed to an activity anticipated to serve a larger group of people, though he could not recall what was proposed.

Board Chairwoman Krista Farris said she thinks adults are underserved. Given the opportunity, she said she thought the group could find more people to swim at that early time, increasing use and revenues.

Board member Brian Wigley said he didn’t think budget concerns should “override our responsibility to serve the citizens. ... I don’t think the answer to our budgeting problems is to reduce opportunities for people.”

Board members also received a report on the department’s Master Plan update effort.

Thomas Jones, the department’s facilities and events coordinator, provided a list of 22 capital-improvements projects highlighted in the 2009 Master Plan.

Four were listed as having been completed, one is funded for this fiscal year, and six more are targeted for funding requests in the next two fiscal years. Resurfacing the outdoor pool is partially completed, playground equipment replacement is a recurring activity, and the remaining 12 have not been done.

Some of the projects that have not been completed might remain priorities, Jones said, but the views on others might have changed.

Farris made several recommendations, an aquatics facility chief among them.

“I think an aquatics facility remains a very, very important unfunded priority,” she said.

A revised online survey about park facility and program use to help with the plan update also was presented. Jones took more suggestions on questions to ask.

Hamaker also showed board members mockups of potential entrance sign changes for Jim Barnett Park.

The new markers would be placed at the Cork Street and Pleasant Valley Road entrances. The city’s logo would be included on the sign.

The goal, Hamaker said, is to get those signs in place this fiscal year, which ends June 30. In future years, similar-looking signs would be installed at other city parks.

Attending the meeting at the War Memorial Building were Chairwoman Krista Farris and board members Jules Bacha, John Elliott, Rosie Schiavone and Brian Wigley. Vice-Chairman John Bentley and board members Kyle Homan, Shelly Lee and Matt Mintschenko were absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com