Council approves money for Rockland Main Street

Rockland OKs extension of recreation deal with YMCA

By Stephen Betts | Jun 12, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council voted to extend the agreement with the Penobscot Bay YMCA to operate the city's recreation programs.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council unanimously approved Monday evening, June 11, the renewal of the contract with the Penobscot Bay YMCA to provide recreation services for another two years.

The YMCA has been operating the city's recreation programs since Oct. 1, 2015. The proposal was initially met with opposition and skepticism by many residents.

Mayor Valli Geiger said the YMCA's operation of the community's recreation programs has worked much better than when the city ran them.

She said when she visited the recreation center when it was run by the city, there were teens running around unsupervised and misbehavior occurring. She said the city did not have enough staff to oversee the programs.

The proposed 2018-2019 budget for recreation is $196,015. Of this amount, $137,115 is paid to the YMCA. The remainder is the city's cost to maintain the Flanagan Community Center.

The first year payment to the YMCA (for nine months only) was $84,000. That annual payment rose to $130,000 in 2016-2017 and $133,510 in 2017-2018.

The final year in which the city operated the program, the recreation budget was about $300,000.

At a May 16 meeting with the council, Benji Blake, the sports and camping director for the YMCA at the Flanagan Center, said no young person had been turned away from the center for not being able to pay membership or program fees. The YMCA subsidized $87,000 in youth membership and program fees in 2017 for the entire region.

The YMCA provides free membership to the youth of Rockland.

Blake said that there were 6,200 people signing in at the Flanagan Center during the past year. That number does not include children and parents coming in for basketball practices and games.

There were 143 children participating in basketball programs offered at the Flanagan Center and 100 in the soccer league. He said there is a thriving art program, dodge ball and adult basketball and pickle ball.

There are also 88 children who attend the summer day camp program and 70 to 75 in the after-school program.

The only citizen who spoke on the renewal at the June 11 meeting was Rockland resident Maggie Trout, who said it was a bad agreement for the community.

Rockland Main Street

The council also unanimously approved at the June 11 meeting contributing $30,000 to Rockland Main Street Inc.

Councilors had discussed during budget deliberations last month whether the annual amount should be reduced or the funding phased out over time. Councilors said the money cut from Rockland Main Street could be redirected to outside social service agencies.

The money for the Main Street organization will be coming from the downtown tax increment financing district, rather than from the general fund, which is where money for outside social service agency contributions originates.

Councilor Amelia Magjik said after she and Councilor Lisa Westkaemper met with representatives of the organization, she was convinced to support the full request of $30,000.

Last month, Rockland Main Street Executive Director Gordon Page had said "We're confident that members of City Council recognize the merits of an organization with a single paid employee and a number of volunteers that annually donate upwards of 2,500 hours of service to our community and economic development efforts. As the president of the National Main Street Center says, 'Downtown is important, because it is the heart and soul of a community. If you don't have a healthy downtown, you simply don't have a healthy town.'"

The city also received more than a dozen letters from businesses in support of the downtown organization.

Other action

The City Council also voted unanimously at its June 11 meeting to accept donations of $7,500 from Jake Barbour for in-kind services to create a walking trail at the MacDougal Park, and a $600 in-kind donation from Ferraiolo Construction.

The council had postponed the acceptance last month, saying it did not want the council's actions on the acceptance to be confused by the public as somehow being related to the council's consideration of Barbour's offer to acquire the Engine Quarry.

Magjik praised the donors and apologized for the delay that she had requested.

The council also unanimously approved the annual request of the Rockland Festival Corp. for the annual Maine Lobster Festival parade.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.