“It’s all about the kids” is what Marion Recreation Commission Director Margo Yates and Marion City Councilman Steve Smith say about the rec programs.
However, Smith would like to see changes in the programs. Yates, Smith said, should be a city employee and the rec programs under the city’s supervision.
“Margo doesn’t get paid near enough for what she does,” Smith said.
He also was complimentary of rec commission members and their diligence in providing programs within budget.
Yates doesn’t want the recreation programs to lose their ties with the school district and if it became solely a city program, it probably would, she said.
The program was started by mothers as an after-school program; crafts and painting were the most popular. As attendance waned, the recreation commission began looking at other options.
Always independent of the city, the rec’s first coordinator was Randee Loomis, hired in 1993, with Yates as Loomis’ assistant. At that time, the coordinator took care of all programs except baseball, which was managed by a baseball commission.
A resolution was adopted by the city and USD 408 to form the commission with $10,000 given by the school district.
At one time, the rec commission’s appropriation was more than $40,000, which included the rec board being responsible for maintenance of the field.
“Rec didn’t want to be responsible for maintenance,” Yates said, reducing the amount $19,000.
Even though the rec commission does have a sizable amount in its budget at the end of the year, Yates said the board writes a $16,200 check to the school district for Yates’ salary for the next year.
“All of the money from the city is utilized,” she said.
Fees were increased this summer for children wanting to participate in the program. City officials heard complaints from patrons, but rec commission members didn’t think they had a choice since the programs need to be self-supporting. Smith and City Administrator David Mayfield attended a rec commission meeting to ask about it.
Ball program fees are determined by actual expenses and per age group. The older age group is more expensive, Yates said.
“Fees fund programs,” Yates said. “We spend a lot of time crunching baseball numbers.”
Blast Ball and Tee-Ball fees were actually reduced in 2009.
The group goes by the previous year regarding the cost of field preparation, the number of home games, the number of umpires needed, paying a maintenance worker, and equipment replacement.
“A huge expense is league fees,” she said.
When that final estimate is determined, the group then guesses the number of players who will sign up and divides the expense estimate by the approximate number of players.
“More teams mean more expense,” Yates said. “I have to make each activity pay for itself.
“I’m also concerned about fees,” she said. “I won’t take a pay increase if the raise comes from increased fees.”
There are scholarships available for those families who cannot afford to pay the fees.
“I don’t want anybody to not participate because they can’t afford it,” Yates said.
Currently, the recreation commission spends all of its funding from the city — $17,000 — to pay Yates and complex manager Terry Edwards.
“I have a responsibility to constituents that tax dollars are spent as efficiently as possible,” Smith said.
He also wants rec programs to be successful.
Included in the recreation commission budget each year are swim team and a winter basketball league. The commission also works with Marion County Soccer Club, flag football, gymnastics, junior golf, and a youth volleyball league that began last year.
“Middle school coaches said they can see a difference in athletes who participate in rec programs,” Yates said.
Booster organizations have contributed to the programs, Yates said.
Baseball/softball boosters as well as swim team boosters have done fundraising, resulting in improvements at ball complex and aquatic center.
Swim team boosters paid for lane lines and a new state-of-the-art timing system and are now raising money for a scoreboard.
There is also an advantage to having successful sports programs in Marion, the most recent example being the success of the winter basketball league.
“The basketball program has just exploded,” she said. “We no longer have to look for teams — they come to us.”
Yates sees it as another opportunity to showcase the community to visitors, bringing new money to local businesses.
“I hope the City can see the economic benefits of having these events,” she said.