Recreation contract ends

The Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) held its last meeting as administrator for community recreation on Wednesday, July 13. On Aug. 1, the Riverside County Economic Development Agency (EDA) assumes control of the County Service Area (CSA) 36 recreation program. The county, as directed by 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, terminated ICRC’s contract after one year of month-to-month probationary status. ICRC has held the contract since Feb. 2007. Prior to that, the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce had held the recreation contract for many years.

In a letter stating ICRC board’s position regarding contract loss and the organization’s future, outgoing President John Simpson said, “As for the future, the functionality of ICRC will change primarily in relinquishing our responsibility of overseeing operations at Town Hall. We can’t tell what, if anything, else will change as to ICRC’s board’s responsibilities, but we do know that the work of managing the Idyllwild Community Center and its dedicated committee will play largely in the mix …”

Simpson also pledged to facilitate the transfer of the lease and Town Hall itself to EDA, the new lessee. Simpson and board had previously approved a termination clause in the lease with the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce (which holds the title to Town Hall) that would allow a new recreation provider to accede to the lease on the same terms that had been granted ICRC.

New ICRC Director Scott Redeker asked several questions of board members about the loss of the contract and the board’s role in overseeing the recreation program, including the degree to which the board had supervised the Town Hall recreation director and staff.

“ICRC was not going to micromanage Town Hall,” Director Linda McCaughin responded. “We hired someone [Recreation Director Bob Lewis] who had managed [before].”

There was speculation about the county’s plans to replace 13 current positions (full- and part-time) with three full-time positions. Bill Brown, CSA Operations Manager, clarified in a subsequent email. “There will be additional staff and instructors as ‘contract’ employees hired for specific projects and/or classes,” he said. He also indicated that with a few exceptions, all current programs would continue for the present, pending future evaluation.

Redeker also inquired about the organization’s financial status, its identity as public or private, the current status of the Idyllwild Community Center (ICC) land and whether the eventual community center complex would be public or private.

ICRC Treasurer JoAnn Graham told Redeker that ICRC has about $330 in its operating account. Redeker stressed the importance of conducting fundraisers to give ICRC a solid continuing financial base.

Vice Chair Dawn Sonnier explained that ICRC is a private organization, that the community center land is privately held by ICRC and, when built, the community center itself would also be privately owned by ICRC, not by the public or the community.

She also said the board had approved grant writer Robert Staples’ application to seek a $2.8 million grant from California Parks and Recreation. Under terms of a recent directive from the land donor, ICRC must finish both the playground and a two-classroom modular component of the larger community center by the end of 2012 in order to retain title to the ICC land.

In other business, Sonnier announced the resignation of longtime board member and President John Simpson. She lauded Simpson for his many contributions to ICRC and the community as well as his board leadership. She also noted that playground construction was nearly funded ($107,500 out of $125,000) and that any additional money would be directed toward playground maintenance and upkeep. New Director Redeker will take over direction of the popular Speakers’ Series and spoke about his plans for the series.

In public comments, Pine Cove resident Norm Cassen questioned whether community members would have to pay to use the ICC when built since it will be privately owned. He suggested putting a hold on the Conditional Use Permit process for the playground until a “realistic master plan” is developed and submitted to county planning.

Cassen then offered to serve on the board, but was told he couldn’t because he was not, as ICRC bylaws require, a “resident” within the CSA 36 boundaries. As an unanticipated consequence of Cassen’s ineligibility, ICRC Director Kari Arnson emailed the Town Crier that she had tendered her resignation as ICRC board member since she also is not a resident of the CSA district. Arnson, like Cassen, lives in Pine Cove.