LGA cuts hit parks and rec, senior center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 22, 2003

Parks and recreation is proposed to be hit hard in Albert Lea’s budget balancing.

Monday night, the council will vote on the proposal which cuts $748,000 out of the city’s budget. The cut is due to the $748,000 cut in local government aid Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed for Albert Lea.

&uot;Parks and recreation have to go first. It’s the logical area to cut,&uot; City Manager Paul Sparks said. &uot;We’ll have to raise some rates and cut out some programs.&uot;

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The city plans to increase rate income by $178,000 between the city pool, the arena, and the senior center. The other aid cut will be made up through cutting park programs and using $500,000 in interest from police and fire pension funds, which the city was given back under state law in 2000.

Under the proposal, city pool rates will rise to $3 for all customers, both youth and adult. Concession stand prices may rise as well as the cost of swimming lessons.

The cost of buying tickets in bulk will rise, but Parks and Recreation Director Jay Hutchison says that bulk tickets should still cost less per ticket than at-door tickets.

The city would also charge a $25 per year fee for membership to the senior citizen’s center. There has been a $6 per year cost for members, but that funding isn’t given to the city.

Arena rental rates will also increase, and the arena may stay open through the summer to generate further revenue.

In 2002, there were eight play parks city wide, which were all open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for nine weeks. Hutchison said that many parks had few children show up for those programs.

&uot;Sometimes these programs would get one or two kids a day,&uot; he said. &uot;It isn’t really worth the money to put someone there if nobody shows up.&uot;

For 2003 the parks will be open on a rotational basis throughout the summer. Staff for play parks will be cut in half.

The city also proposed to cut funding to the YMCA and

ARC, eliminate the Halloween carnival the Stay Fit program.

Sparks defended the city’s proposal saying that the other areas of city government such as public safety and public works, can’t be cut without large concern.