“His [Bill Brown, County Service Area operations manager for Riverside County’s Economic Development Agency (EDA)] accusations were not very strong,” said Dawn Sonnier, Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) president.
Sonnier had been through a turbulent month and stressful week as the County Service Area (CSA) 36 Advisory Committee held a special meeting Wednesday, to hear the reasons that the county terminated its recreation management contract with ICRC.
But Sonnier smiled and said the group still has plans for recreation projects in Idyllwild. Her immediate attention is working to keep the Idyllwild Skate Park open for the next month. In the long-term, she will focus on gaining the appropriate planning approvals to build the promised playground on the Idyllwild Community Center (ICC) site. Meanwhile, she will serve on the budding ICC Committee (See Pete Capparelli’s letter to the editor on page 22.)
The Skate Park is insured through Aug. 31, Sonnier said Friday. “We are currently working with Peg [Gallo, skate park manager] to raise money to pay the employees through Aug. 31, too,” Sonnier stated. Meanwhile, she would like to make an agreement to keep the park open through October, then close for the winter months and re-open next spring. She will be discussing her tentative plans with Idyllwild Pines Camp, which owns the property on which the skate park sits.
“The intention is open the park Wednesday through Sunday. Although it will be closed on Aug. 3 [Wednesday], but re-open Aug. 4 [Thursday],” Sonnier said and confirmed that information on Monday, Aug. 2.
With respect to the problems that Brown identified, Sonnier felt ICRC had addressed them or was making the effort to change and to improve. For example, she acknowledged that staff had driven children in private cars. ICRC made some preliminary requests that the county buy vans for the local program’s use.
But the county could not expend public funds on vehicles that a private organization would then own. Nevertheless, the ICRC board found coverage that would insure staff and children when ICRC needed to use vehicles that it did not own.
Although financial management mistakes were made, Sonnier and the board had invited the county to provide financial training to the ICRC staff. “We’re still waiting for a return call about that,” she lamented. “We haven’t received the training he offered.”
The abyss between ICRC and EDA is the problem and puzzle with which Sonnier has had to grapple. She argued that Brown did not attend many CSA 36 meetings since the June 2010 community recreation meeting at the Idyllwild Fire Station.
“How are we supposed to move forward if he isn’t coming to scheduled meetings?” she asked.
Addressing the county’s size and bureaucracy compared to Idyllwild, Sonnier pointed out that the new 60-inch TV and Wii software were actually purchased in May 2010, but installation did not occur until December.
“If we had done that ourselves, I could have gone to Costco or Wal-Mart and had it installed the same week,” she stressed. “See how long the county takes!” Brown maintains ICRC did not allow entry until December.
“I felt we were handcuffed. We were being set up to fail,” Sonnier said.
Once the planning process is traversed, she doesn’t expect any shackles to hinder the prospective playground’s construction. Supervisor Jeff Stone’s staff has been helping Sonnier navigate the planning process. This fall, she expects public hearings about the plan.
Depending upon the timing of this step, construction may occur in spring 2012, she said with a smile.