Votes to recommend continuing advisory committee oversight

Two headlines came out of the County Service Area 36 Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, Oct. 25.

One, that construction has begun on the Idyllwild Community Center amphitheater, funded by a previously announced $1-million donation from David and Loie Butterfield. The amphitheater will be completed in Part 1 of the center construction process and should be ready for use by summer 2019. “We just got the permit and work has begun,” said Janice Lyle, president of the nonprofit San Jacinto Mountain Community Center.

SJMCC, doing business as the ICC, both runs taxpayer-funded community recreation through a contract with the county and also is responsible for getting the center built. When completed, the center will be called Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek and Butterfield Amphitheater.

The other headline was that the advisory committee will recommend to Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington that committee oversight in a public forum should continue, largely because property tax money is being used to fund recreation and needs “arm’s length” supervision of how tax dollars are being spent.

The supervisor’s office had recommended discontinuing that oversight and replacing it with public attendance at SJMCC board meetings. Lyle noted that at present, the board does not conduct public meetings but potentially could, if needed.

The recommendation came about through the urging of committee member Peter Szabadi that oversight and the public forum should be independent of the private nonprofit currently running recreation.

Chair John Metroka called for a vote. All three attending members, Metroka, Szabadi and Mark Garrett, voted yes, and the recommendation will be passed on to the supervisor.

Several attendees questioned why there were not more notices about the CSA meetings and that they had only attended because of word of mouth. Mike Franklin, county Economic Development Agency CSA project manager, reviewed that the county had previously placed ads and agendas about the CSA meetings in the Town Crier and that process could be revived. Szabadi said he could draft a notice for the newspaper stressing what the meeting was about — recreation and public tax money funding it — and that the public is invited.

Franklin offered a financial report showing an end-of-September cash balance of $221,791.44.

Lyle presented a Statement of Recreation Programs and Activities — Cash Basis covering the period January through September 2018 showing revenue of $190,121.79 and expenses of $17,700 for recreation and sports programs; $15,900 for operations including insurance, supplies and telephone; and $126,000 in payroll.

Lyle also provided a handout “Questions and Answers about the Idyllwild Community Center project” that included:

• Site development including driveways, lighting, parking and amphitheater will be completed by summer 2019. And “Based on the ability to secure funding, the ICC building will be constructed in Phase 2 starting January 2020.”

• The Idyllwild community has raised just under $400,000 for the center building with its targeted youth center, activities rooms, community kitchen, restrooms and outdoor decks. Current estimates for the building are $4 million. County EDA and Washington have indicated a “willingness” to assist by providing a grant of $1.2 million from Community Development Block Grant funds. The remaining $2.4 million will be part of a new fundraising campaign targeting other available public and private grant sources.

• Regarding rental of the site when construction of phases is completed, Lyle’s handout suggested that the goal of ICC management is to maintain an affordable fee structure that also helps “support the operation of the Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek.”

To date, the Butterfields have donated the 5-acre site as a gift to SJMCC. They subsequently donated $4 million toward the development of the site and the amphitheater. In recognition of this generosity, SJMCC voted to name the site and the amphitheater Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek and Butterfield Amphitheater.