Transcript Staff Report
The economic crisis that is laying bare the townâ€™s financial problems is having a minimal effect on the Parks and Recreation Department and the Larsen Rink, two town departments that are entirely self-sufficient and are funded by user fees to pay their own way.
â€œWeâ€™re actually having a pretty successful season,â€ said Parks and Recreation Director Sean Driscoll, who oversees the two enterprise funds that operate the Recreation Department programs and the Larsen Rink.
â€œThe year got off to a bit of a rough start and the bad economy hasnâ€™t been a help, but things have actually been picking up, and I anticipate the budgets for [both Larsen Rink and Parks and Recreation] to either break even or maybe even have a little bit of a surplus by the end of the year.â€
Driscollâ€™s assessment of the status of the two enterprise funds seems to support the decision several years ago to take those departments off the townâ€™s budget and have them survive independently.
â€œOverall, the yearâ€™s been good,â€ added rink manager Mark Wallace. â€œWeâ€™re actually on the plus side at the rink, and any cuts the town has to make shouldnâ€™t affect us.â€
The nature of enterprise funds dictates the programs be self-sufficient and cannot rely on any funding from the townâ€™s budget. However, the reciprocal impact is revenue from the enterprise fund is legally earmarked specifically for those programs.
Both Driscoll and Wallace acknowledged that some people in town have asked why cuts wonâ€™t be made to Parks and Recreation or at the rink, when town officials are being forced to lay off department heads and potentially close departments, such as the library and senior center.
Meanwhile, programs like the senior center and library, which are funded through the town budget, are more deeply impacted in tight fiscal times.
â€œWeâ€™ve been really lucky,â€ Wallace said, referring to the rinkâ€™s success. â€œWe have some issues with regard to the repairs that need to be made to the rink, but weâ€™ve had a good season with lots of teams using the ice, and weâ€™ve been getting a lot of turnout at the public skates, and weâ€™ve probably had the most birthday party rentals that weâ€™ve ever had, so weâ€™ve actually done pretty well.â€
Wallace also noted the success of the Winthrop High hockey program has had a trickle down effect this year as well. With full high school programs at the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels, there has been plenty of ice time dedicated to the hockey teams. At the same time, the rinkâ€™s largest users, Winthrop Youth Hockey and the Winthrop Skating Association, have also had banner years and have booked regular ice time.
â€œWeâ€™ve also had several outside hockey teams and programs using the ice, such as Catholic Memorialâ€™s high school team, the girls teams from Marblehead and Lynn English-Winthrop have been using the rink for practice time and home games, and weâ€™ve had other requests,â€ noted Driscoll. â€œThe key going forward is going to be what the town decides to do about making repairs to the rink, which are needed. That will really have an impact on next year.â€
Driscoll said the town is still deciding how to proceed at the rink, because of faulty contracting work done by the general contractor who installed the new ice surface two years ago. Town officials think additional repairs are needed.