UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: Rec budget cuts hit lifeguards, parking checkers, after-school programs

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rec budget cuts hit lifeguards, parking checkers, after-school programs

Reduced hours at Fairfield's two public libraries aren't the only changes town officials have made to deal with an $850,000 cut to the town's 2012-13 budget by the Representative Town Meeting last month.
Gerald Lombardo, director of the town's Parks and Recreation Department, said Wednesday night that he has made a number of cuts in services and staffing. These include:
- Reducing hours for lifeguards at three town beaches.
- Eliminating staff checking parking permits at two beaches.
- Trimming the hours that the Tennis Center and boat houses at Jennings Beach are open.
- Reducing the number of after-school programs and senior fitness classes run by the rec department.
- Cutting back the hours of a rec special-needs program next winter.
- Seasonal maintenance staff at the Par 3 Golf Course and H. Smith Richardson Golf Course.
The budget reductions are necessary to help offset an $850,000 reduction made to the town's contingency account by the RTM, Lombardo said. That cut couldn't be sustained in the contingency account, according to administration officials, because of unresolved contracts between the town and unions representing municipal employees. The costs of labor settlements are paid from the contingency account, which the RTM had cut from the proposed $1.01 million to $238,517.
To help make up that cut, Lombardo said he was asked to cut a total of $53,000 from 2012-13 recreation spending. "It wasn't something I wanted to do," he said to the town's Parks and Recreation Commission, which met Wednesday night at South Benson Marina. "This is what was requested, and I had to do what I had to do."
Barbara Rifkin, a commission member, also was displeased by the cuts. "It's very disappointing in a community like Fairfield that we make these cutbacks ... It's just horrible. It's ridiculous. It's just awful we had to do this at all," she said.
Lombardo said the only complaints he's heard so far are about reduced hours at the Tennis Center, and that although tennis players didn't like it, they understood why hours had to be scaled back. The Tennis Center now opens at 8 a.m., Monday through Friday, instead of 7 a.m., and closes at 6 p.m. Sunday, instead of 8 p.m., Lombardo said.
Hours of lifeguards at Southport Beach, Sasco Beach and South Pine Creek Beach were reduced by an hour a day. Instead of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., lifeguards will staff those beaches from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The staff checking parking permits were eliminated at Southport and Sasco beaches, Lombardo said.
Lombardo said he may hear complaints about people parking at tthose beaches without the required stickers. He said people likely to be upset are those who have a beach permit but can't find a parking spot, or notice that someone's car doesn't have a sticker and want to know why they had to pay for one. READ MORE:

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