Committee says $20,000 loan a dead issue

At the Thursday, Aug. 11 meeting of the County Service Area (CSA) 36 Advisory Committee, its first meeting since the county assumed control of the local recreation program on Aug. 1, CSA Operations Manager Bill Brown, new District Recreation Manager GeGe Beagle and Sports Coordinator Jeremy Teeguarden discussed plans for expanding recreation offerings, reviewed new programs already in place, and addressed the importance of providing continuity for existing programs including summer softball.

Speaking first, Teeguarden discussed his “passion” for recreation and the need to be creative in finding ways to expand sports offerings. “There are things you can do to generate money to provide more sports opportunities,” he said.

Beagle then reported on the growing popularity of the Wednesday summer camp field trips for Idyllwild kids. The first, to Medieval Times in Buena Park, had over 40 kids attend, as well as some parents. The second, to a water park in Riverside, had 86 Idyllwild kids and eight chaperones. For the last one on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to Knott’s Berry Farm, Beagle anticipated even greater attendance. The county provided three buses for the event.

Brown explained that, as part of the countywide recreation summer camp programs, the county funds all field trip transportation for county youth attending the field trips. He noted that 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone wanted Idyllwild youth to have the opportunity to join other county youth in these field trips and, for this summer, is paying, from his discretionary funds, the costs of admission for Idyllwild kids. Brown explained initially those costs are coming out of CSA 36, but Stone would reimburse them.

In her manager’s report, Beagle noted that parents and children are returning to Town Hall after the turnover. “On the first Monday I started with 12 children,” she said. “Today (Thursday, Aug. 11) I hit 30. The ratio [supervisors to children] is safe.” Beagle acknowledged the challenges she faced in becoming the recreation manager after the county takeover but said that support is building within the community. “I’m dedicated to the children, I have a great love for Idyllwild and I have good friends out there,” she said, in thanking the community.

Brown outlined county plans to expand recreational offerings and recreational venues, using grants, some of which are age-specific. “The county leverages its resources to provide as many opportunities as possible for children,” he began. He explained that programs for other demographics would also be expanded, including adult and senior programs and field trips, youth and teen programs and programs for families.

Brown noted that Stone tasked him and the Economic Development Agency (EDA) with providing the best possible district recreation program and that establishing a dedicated, active adult center as well as one for teens is high on the supervisor’s list to accomplish within the first year of county management. “Supervisor Stone wants action on delivering [recreation] to all portions of the community,” Brown said.

The county plans to have Town Hall inspected as soon as summer camp is over. “It is the direct responsibility of the county to ensure safety,” he said. “We’ll report back to the [CSA 36] board on the conditions and our findings.” The county also plans to rehab the Town Hall playground, have it subsequently inspected and certified by county inspectors, and make it available to the public, once safety is assured.

In a long-simmering issue, brought to Brown’s and the Advisory Committee’s attention at the request of the County Auditor, the Advisory Committee recommended dropping the continuing line item $20,000 advance from the county. The initial loan or advance was made to the local recreation program in the 1990s when the Chamber of Commerce was responsible for the program.

“The Auditors noted this [advance] and even if the Supervisor approves dropping this repayment, this could still be pursued by the County Auditor and other departments,” Brown advised. “Even the Supervisor is accountable.”

“There is no $20,000 in any account [ICRC or the Chamber],” said committee member Reba Coulter. “I think it was an accumulation of errors over time and that this was back when it was under the Chamber. I don’t see any way of recovering this. It would cost more [time and legal fees] than it is worth.” Board colleague Mike Frietas suggested reviewing old Chamber and CSA 36 minutes to track what had happened. Unless brought back by another department, the advance has been dropped as a continuing agenda item for CSA 36

Lastly, the county noted that the average monthly reimbursement request from ICRC during the past 12 months has been about $14,000. But in July, the final ICRC reimbursement request doubled to more than $29,000.

In an email, ICRC director Emily White explained that there were three pay periods that month, plus ICRC requested reimbursement for all accrued employee sick and vacation time. “All employees were paid their accrued vacation as required by law when employmnet ends,” White said.