By Ellen Oliver
Saving money was the top concern for the Recreation Commission at their December 20 meeting, as the Commission used the slower winter months to prepare for the busy spring and summer seasons.
The biggest expenditure for the Commission is maintenance of the town properties. For several months, the Commission members have explored options for reducing costs. The biggest point of discussion was the cost-effectiveness of contracting out services and being dissatisfied with the quality versus bringing the services in-house to get the desired quality.
After sharing stories of improper fertilization and cutting practices that resulted in additional problems, the group decided to continue to contract mowing, but hire a firm with a background in turf management rather than a landscaper to increase the quality of the services provided.
Other services, such as pest management and irrigation, would continue to be done by professional contractors, but some tasks, such as mulching and preparing the baseball infields, would be best accomplished by the Recreation Maintenance Supervisor with the help of high school and community service students.
If services such as mowing and aeration were brought in-house, the Recreation Commission would need to purchase or borrow equipment from other town departments. While the Recreation Commission has borrowed equipment from the Highway Department, the discussions about borrowing equipment from the Cemetery Department stalled after preliminary talks last spring.
After the June meeting between Recreation and Cemetery, Recreation Director Laura Greenough provided a list of equipment Recreation might like to access and how often it might be needed. However the situation is still unresolved due to changes in the Cemetery Department. “Since we met, Cemetery has lost members; has new members,” said Greenough.
The Rec members felt it was appropriate to revisit the issue with Cemetery and asked Greenough to arrange another meeting, this time with the heads of Cemetery, Highway and Recreation, along with Town Administrator Bill Wrigley to address the issue of sharing resources.”This is a huge driver on decisions we make regarding what we can do in-house versus contractors,” said Commission Member Tim Allaire.
The discussions on maintenance for 2013 were timely because capital requests for fiscal year 2014 were due the day after the meeting. The Commission discussed what capital expenditures they may want brought to Town Meeting. While the Commission will continue in discussions to access equipment from other town departments, they decided to put in preliminary requests for a truck and trailer to move Recreation equipment and remove trash as well as a mower to mow between scheduled contractor mows to accommodate the needs of certain user groups.
Eric Bachtell brought up the possibility of the Recreation Department hosting a “drop-in” summer program at the Stow Community Park, where kids could play basketball, tennis and other games with limited supervision, other than someone to hand out equipment and monitor issues.
“There are plenty of kids whose mothers say ‘Get off the X-box and go play,’ but with who?” said Bachtell. The Commission members liked the idea, but identified several issues that would require further investigation. They agreed to devote more time at a future meeting to see if a program might be developed.
Bachtell also asked to revisit an idea from when the park was in the planning stages – bringing in music programs for the community. “When we planned the pavilion, the whole idea was to be able to put a small stage at the end,” he said. Allaire recalled that Bose expressed interest in supporting musical events and perhaps could be asked to provide speakers or sponsor an event.
Greenough said she would approach Bose to gauge their level of interest, but also related that she has written grant applications to the Stow Cultural Council and has never been granted any funds. The group quickly discussed ways to fund events and agreed to devote more time at a future meeting. “We’ve talked about it for years, now’s the time to do it,” said Bachtell.