The Winthrop Town Council and Winthrop Town Manager James McKenna plan to open a dialogue next week about the future of the town’s four enterprise accounts: Larsen Rink account; the water and sewer enterprise funds; and the Parks and Recreation account.
“The issue is the rink obviously, it is the one that has gained the most attention,” said McKenna this week. “The others are basically where they need to be.”
Not that the water and sewer funds and the parks and recreation account haven’t had their past problems. However, McKenna made it clear that debt issues related to rink repairs five and six years ago, outstanding legal issues with contractors who worked on the rink and an annual operational shortfall, have made it important for the town to consider it options, especially as regards, the Larsen Rink account.
“It takes about $200,000 to run a rink properly, but that rink has consistently not seen that kind of income from rentals, so there is an (operational shortfall) issue, as well as the debt issues that have come up, and it is obvious why the (Department of Revenue) has pointed that out to us as an obvious problem going forward,” said McKenna.
The operating deficit so far this year for the Larsen Rink account is running “in the high teens”, according to McKenna (between $15,000 and $20,000), after being approximately $47,000 in the red last year.
“There are obviously some issues that the rink faces that are hard to overcome,” added McKenna. “The town is geographically challenged, so that rink is not in the market to attract the kind of users that other rinks in the region get, plus it is an old facility and one we still don’t have a long-term fix in place for and third, it is cost intensive to run a rink.”
McKenna said that a portion of the discussion with the Town Council will focus on what alternatives there are to operating the enterprise funds as they are.
He noted that there are also some issues with the water and sewer accounts, which are tied to the fact that “you can’t grow yourself out of the high cost of maintenance issues that we face in the infrastructure, and quite frankly, they’re issues that were put off for years and years but now they need to be addressed.”
It is important to note that no decisions about any of enterprise accounts has been made and the discussion is scheduled to allow the council to consider its options moving forward.
“With the water and sewer accounts we’d like to go to radio read meters, but that costs money, it could save us a great deal of money and streamline our processes, but it costs money up front,” said McKenna.
McKenna also noted that the Parks and Recreation account, after a rough year last year, “has turned the corner” is actually on budget for the current fiscal year.