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City risks shutdown of all park programs

Published: Fri, February 12, 2010 @ 12:09 a.m.

Youngstown would save about $1 million by cutting its recreation programs, a city official says.

By David Skolnick

YOUNGSTOWN — Though a final decision hasn’t been made, city officials are considering elimination of all park and recreation programs.

“It looks that way,” said Jason Whitehead, director of the park and recreation commission and the mayor’s chief of staff. “Because of the budget deficit, we won’t be able to fund programs.”

The city hasn’t finalized its 2010 budget, but officials are looking to reduce a projected $3.5 million deficit in the general fund.

If the city cut its park and recreation programs, all of which lose money, it would save about $1 million, Whitehead said.

The city wants to find companies to manage the Henry Stambaugh Golf Course, the North Side Pool and four baseball fields.

“If we don’t outsource those, we won’t open” any of them, Whitehead said.

But Mayor Jay Williams said no final decision has been made on any park and recreation programs — except cancellation of the 21 and Over Basketball League, which was to start playing last Sunday. He added discussions about cuts are very preliminary.

“We are looking at a number of different scenarios,” Williams said. “There are so many variables. No definitive decisions have been made.”

City council’s Park and Playgrounds Committee was to meet at noon today at city hall to discuss the programs.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th and chairman of that committee, said: “Council will find out what [the administration] wants shut down. From what I hear, it’s everything.”

The 21 and Over Basketball League had been around for more than 20 years. The league had about 130 members.

“Some participants don’t understand why would the city remove a program that is targeted at an at-risk population,” said Eric D. Jones, the league’s commissioner.

“It gives young adults an alternative to drugs and crime. That’s not to say they will commit crimes without the league, but they were doing something positive. The people who can’t play basketball on Sunday afternoons aren’t just numbers. These are people who are at risk.”

The league is looking for private donations and wants to operate a scaled-back program this year, Jones said.

Williams said the adult league is “an important program,” but if the choice is between it and summer programs for children, the city would fund the latter.

“I have no doubt the people who run the [adult] league have the intelligence and ability to operate it on their own for a year,” the mayor said.

The city laid off eight part-time park and recreation workers, who earned between $7 and $9 an hour with no medical benefits, and one full-time employee, who made about $30,000 in annual base salary with benefits, in September to cut costs.

Under union contracts, the city would have to recall the full-time worker and then the eight part-timers before it can hire temporary summer help, Whitehead said. There isn’t money available to recall those workers, he said.

The city hires about 75 seasonal workers to run its park and recreation programs, including its eight-week summer day camp that gives Youngstown kids a place to go to play games and sports, eat breakfast and lunch, learn crafts, swim and go on field trips.

“It gives young people something constructive to do during the summer and gives them something positive to do,” Whitehead said. “Not having the program would have a very large negative quality-of-life impact. Some kids will have nothing to do. Not every kid is going to pick up a stone and throw it through a window. But there is a concern about kids being bored and getting into trouble.”

Jones, who is a former city summer program playground supervisor and park director, said the elimination of the program would be devastating.

“You want to occupy these kids’ time and their minds,” he said. “When you don’t do that, it’s hard to predict the outcome. There’s a lot of poverty. The breakfast and lunch served there were the only meals of the day for some of these kids. Taking away those programs is a bad idea. For some of these kids, it would be devastating.”

The city will do everything it can to keep the summer recreation programs, Williams said.

The city may try to find a different agency to run the program, he said. “I hope we can get other organizations to run the programs,” Drennen said. “It’s [important] to have them in organized activities rather than roam the city during the summer.”

The city should know by the end of the month if any outside agencies are interested in managing the golf course, the North Side Pool and its baseball fields, Whitehead said. Without outside agencies, those facilities won’t open, he said.

The city has operated the golf course for 87 years.

The city paid $1.28 million to build a new North Side Pool less than three years ago.

It’s unlikely that Borts Pool on the West Side will open this summer. That pool needs $50,000 to $100,000 worth of improvements before it could be used, Whitehead said.

Except for a few days, for private bookings, Borts wasn’t used last year.



Impact on deficit

Youngstown city officials are considering ways to cut an anticipated $3.5 million general fund shortfall for this year. Among the options are shutting down the city’s park and recreation operations. Here are 2009 revenues and costs of some key park and recreation programs.


Revenues: $9,466

Expenses: $91,669

Deficit: $82,203


Revenues: $102,974

Expenses: $129,514

Deficit: $26,540


Revenues: $0

Expenses: $38,712

Deficit: $38,712

Source: Youngstown Park and Recreation Commission


1Photoman(1249 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Though times are tough all across the board, the city should not have a problem raising the golf course funding as the course does generate income. Funds for the pool? Iffy.

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2valleytransplant(37 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Save the Muni...looks like it could be a wild summer in Ytown.

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3BrothaLove(81 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

It is my understanding that a city pool is not meant to generate revenue, but, like many other facilities such as a Covelli Center, more as a means of raising the quality of life for area residents. You cannot raise the price of admission at a pool high enough to cover the costs. Most using the pool are kids with little to no money and cannot/will not pay excessive admission prices.

Consider this, the city does actually generate money from the pool by it simply being open. If the pool were closed consider how many bored and restless teens there would be roving the area and undoubtedly getting into trouble. The money spent on police manpower, vandalism repairs and probably theft would exceed the funds spent in keeping the pool open.

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4fcb(463 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

That's right! Close all the parks and playgrounds and put the kids out on the streets to entertain themselfs.Give them no place to go and nothing to do.They will hit the streets and you will have more crime than what you already have. How stupid.Parks and playgrounds are not suppose to be money makers.They are suppose to be character makers of children. Find the money some where else.

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5howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Obviously the golf course is the most financially solvent, raising the greens fees by just a few dollars per person would cover the operating loss and keep the facilities from deteriorating further. I don't golf so I would get no direct benefit from this but in the long run having to close facilities like these much like our libraries reflects badly on Youngstown and its leadership.

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6Get_it_together(2 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps the park programs wouldn't have to be cut if all those in the city making $90,000 a year would pay their property taxes (ahem, Jason Whitehead).


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7sq51(11 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Again Youngstown wants to do it to the westside. We are wooried about the golf course and the Northside Pool..... It looks as if Borts is just shut down. We build new on the North, South, and East sides but we continue to talk of closing the West side facillities... I find it amazing that we want to hurt the side of town that probably has the most tax paying citizens. Didn't this city ever hear the saying " Don't bite the hand that feeds you"?

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8palbubba(809 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

An earlier article said that the golf course lost $100,000 last year.This one says $26,540. Guess what, one of these is a LIE. When will the residents of this city realize that THEIR government is not theirs.

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9Nunya22(315 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

They just finally somewhat upgraded the northside pool but didn't even get those slides that they advertised, now it's a possiblitiy that the pool could end up closed what a waste. I do hope they come up with a plan because the summertime is right around the corner before we know it.

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10Ralphie(32 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Why close a 9 hole golf course and a city pool when you can just lay off some cops and firemen? In the fall a bunch of people were layed off in these dept's. Remember the Mayor in the news? Oh wait... those were all part-time seasonal workers that don't work in the winter anyway. So layoff publicity savings = $0

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