Kathy Lewis (left) , wife of Recreation Director Bob Lewis (right), explains what has been accomplished and performed by ICRC to provide community recreation opportunities. Holding Kathy’s list are Chris Singer (center) and Bob. Photo: J.P. Crumrine

UPDATE: Aug. 2, 2011, 12 p.m.: Bill Sanborn, HUSD Trustee, said Tuesday afternoon that he expected the new contract to be approved at the Tuesday evening meeting.

After three and half hours, the community’s appetite for discussing recreation management was finally sated. Still many left with a disagreeable taste in their mouths.

More than 80 people filled the Caine Learning Center to hear Bill Brown, Riverside County’s County Service Area operations manager, explain why the county recently decided to cancel its recreation contract with the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC).

Brown succinctly stated the county’s reasons:

  • Failure to maintain comprehensive insurance coverage;
  • Failure to submit annual operating budget;
  • Transporting children in private vehicles without proper insurance (field trips);
  • Inadequate background checks (Live Scan);
  • Misuse of Public (taxpayer) Funds for private ICRC activities;
  • Town Hall staff spending public funds on meals and snacks;
  • Health insurance payments to staff members that do not have health insurance.

Bill Brown, Riverside County’s County Service Areas manager, presents the county’s reasons for cancellation the recreation management contract with the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council and their plan for a local recreation program. Photo: J.P. Crumrine

He then announced the appointment of three temporary staff: Georgiana “Gege” Beagle, recreation manager, Jeremy Teeguarden, sports coordinator, and Kelly Wills, assistant preschool teacher. Each one is a local resident. Brown is still seeking a preschool teacher. Although the appointments are initially temporary, those hired may become permanent county employees.

He also discussed the plans for recreation provision in the future including field trips, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 3, for summer camp attendees. But the most controversial and potentially divisive issue is the interruption, if not cancellation, of the balance of the Adult Co-ed Softball season.

Without insurance, Hemet Unified School District (HUSD) will terminate its contract with ICRC for use of Idyllwild School facilities, including the softball field. “It’s my fault,” Brown said in response to what the county had done to initiate their own contract with HUSD.

Carol McClintic, CSA 36 chair, reads one of the many audience questions during Wednesday night’s special recreation program meeting. Reba Coulter, CSA 36 Advisorty Committee member, listens to McClintic.

Several of the local team sponsors were upset that they were not getting a full season for their fees. Near the end of the meeting, a brief discussion ensued between Lucy Rebuck, HUSD Safety Officer and Risk Manager, and Brown on how the County could reach agreement with the school district for use of the field.

On Thursday, July 28, HUSD released the agenda for its Aug. 2 meeting and item K. 28 appears to address the county’s request to use the Idyllwild facilities.

Sharon Cassen reads her proposed solution to the public during the CSA 36 special meeting, Wednesday, July 27. Photo: J.P. Crumrine

The questions posed to Brown ranged from “How can the county supply more recreation opportunities than ICRC on the same budget?” to “Why should we trust you?”

Much of the discussion focused on what will happen next … What about softball and the fate of current employees? While many people left disappointed and even disgruntled, Judi Way urged the audience to listen to Brown and give the County an opportunity to prove its promises.

“Something wonderful could come out of this,” she said near the end of the session.

As Mike Freitas (right), Advisory Committee member, makes a closing comment, his colleagues on the CSA 36 Advisory Committee, Carol McClintic (left), Reba Coulter and Bob Schraff listen.

And CSA 36 member Mike Freitas summed up the situation, “It’s over. ICRC is gone. Now everybody supposedly [is concerned] about the children, but 90 percent are [still] fighting for ICRC. Everybody needs to do whatever they can to help the children.”

Bob Lewis, current recreation director, spoke at the meeting, including expressing his gratitude to the audience for coming out to support him and other ICRC staff members.

Hubert Halkin presented a petition with hundreds of signatures opposed to the change. He also asked about using Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District as an alternative recreation manager. Brown replied that Valley-Wide is a public service agency, which does not encompasses the Hill.