BY JAMES HARPER
Chairs, tables, jump ropes, bowling balls, hurdles and other equipment soon will fill the Midtown Education and Cultural Center, which is expected to open the end of May.
Daytona Beach city commissioners approved the purchase of about $100,000 in equipment for the new center earlier this month.
The center, which was constructed to replace the former Campbell Recreation Center on the corner of George Engram Boulevard and Keech Street in Daytona Beach, also includes a gymnasium named in honor of the late educator and popular coach T.R. Faircloth, Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson said this week.
Cuts to the city’s budget affected the Leisure Services Department, but Williamson said the cuts will not affect the opening of the new center.
No track and field, boxing, flag football
City commissioners voted in March to eliminate four positions in the Leisure Services Department, including two office specialist positions and recreation leaders.
Williamson admitted that losing these staffers has led to his department eliminating the track and field, boxing and adult flag football programs.
He has reorganized the department and shifted his staff around to deal with the vote by the commissioners.
“We are moving in a different direction. Currently the eliminated programs are run by city staff. The direction we are going is there are parent associations running these programs in other cities. The purpose of us running the program was to give them traction,” Williamson explained.
Change in running of after-school programs
Williamson also discussed how reorganizing his department will save money.
For example. beginning in the fall, Williamson wants the city’s after-school programs that are currently operating out of Ortona and Turie T. Smalls elementary schools and the Chiles Academy to be moved to the John H. Dickerson, new Midtown and Schnebly Recreation centers.
Williamson said the centers, with the exception of the Schnebly Recreaton Center, are currently up to speed to run the program.
He said the city has an interlocal agreement with the Volusia County school district to run the afterschool programs. The agreement, which calls for the city to pay Volusia County schools $13,000, allows the city to use the school district’s facility.
“School principals use that to offset materials, supplies, things they may use for their school,” said Williamson.
Transportation an issue
Moving the after-school programs to city property will save the city $13,000.
The only problem that currently exists is transporting the students from the schools to the community centers.
Williamson said the cost associated with transportation involves the use of city-owned vans.
He added that the children get out of school at 2 p.m. and those that choose to participate in the after-school program will get rides to the centers. However, parents must pick them up by 5:30 p.m.
No decision has been made on changing the location of the after-school program until Williamson brings back more specifics and answers to the commissioners’ questions.
In spite of pleas from citizens to not cut jobs from the Daytona Beach’s Leisure Services Department, five commissioners and the mayor agreed to eliminate the four positions.
Only Zone 1 commissioner Edith Shelley voted against the budget amendment that included decreasing expenditures in the 2011-12 budget by $5.3 million.
“I am uncomfortable with the way this has come to me. I believe there were other options that could have been presented to us,” said Shelley.
“There could have been some other areas we could have cut that were more effective. I have to be able to justify my vote when I’m out in the community. Justifying my vote is difficult when I do not have comparisons to deal with,” she added.
Emotional plea for children’s sake
In an emotional plea during the March 21 city commission meeting, resident Norma Bland told the elected officials she was coming to them “literally bleeding the blood of Jesus.”
“Please save the children in my community. It hurts my heart to see what’s happening in our city. One child was killed in Sanford,” Bland said referring to the case involving 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Bland is upset that personnel and programs were recommended to be cut from the Leisure Services Department, which she says will have an impact on activities in which area children participate.
Employes retiring, offered seasonal jobs
Sarah McCarroll, Human Resources Director, said the people holding positions that are being eliminated would have options. McCarrol said a total of 10 city positions were being eliminated, including the four from the Leisure Services Department.
“We are going to cut those 10 positions. Some people are retiring, some people bumping other people. Four people who are left, we are going to offer seasonal positions to them or their choice to be laid off and collect unemployment,” said McCarroll.
McCarroll told the Daytona Times that the employees being offered seasonal work would receive no benefits and lower pay.