BAXTER - Brainerd Community Education may run the Baxter Parks and Recreation programs this spring.
Baxter City Administrator Dennis Coryell and Brainerd Community Education Director Todd Lyscio have been working on a joint powers agreement this year. An agreement has not been finalized. The agreement would give Brainerd Community Education, which is part of the Brainerd School District, the responsibility to operate and finance Baxter's parks and recreation programs. Baxter would be responsible for maintaining the fields.
The Baxter City Council and Brainerd School Board must vote on the agreement before the city gives up its authority to run the parks and recreation programs and the concession stands. Coryell expects that the city council will address the issue in late January and community education would take over April 1.
Coryell said the goals of this proposal are to maintain the quality of the programs and to save the city money. Coryell said community education has more experienced staff to run the Baxter programs more efficiently.
Bud Reponen is the Baxter Parks and Recreation supervisor.
He is the only city employee to work with the parks and recreation programs. Reponen's job would be eliminated if the city council approves the agreement.
"We've had communication problems," said Coryell. "We have one staff person with one cell phone and if a game gets canceled not everyone hears about it in a timely fashion."
Reponen, who has been with the city for 10 years, agreed there have been communications problems. He said it's a challenge for one person to run the Baxter programs. There are 36 programs for youths, including softball, baseball, soccer, pond hockey, ice skating, football and tennis.
Reponen is in charge of scheduling practices and games and making sure coaches, umpires or referees are scheduled to work the games.
Reponen said this year 1,200 youths registered for programs. However, Reponen said the program actually affects close to 1,900 children when looking at who's involved in tournaments and clinics.
Coryell said the city budgeted $110,600 this year for parks and recreation programs. Of this, Reponen's salary and benefits is about $60,000. The remaining money is used for supplies, contracted services and for concession stand food and beverages. The city received about $54,500 this year in revenue or donations. The gap between expenditures and revenue - $56,100 - is funded through the city's general fund, said Coryell.
When asked if the city could hire another employee to help Reponen, Coryell said, "We could if we had the money."
Lyscio said the two entities have similar programs. Lyscio said an agreement would help eliminate duplication.
"We still have a lot to talk about and then the council (and school board) will have to decide if they like the idea," Lyscio said.
Lyscio said if community education takes over Baxter's programs he would add several staff members to coordinate specific activities. Lyscio said these expenditures would be covered by user fees, which may increase by about $5.
Lyscio said community education programs, including its recreation programs, are primarily funded by user fees and state aid dollars. In 2004-05, community education spent $1.55 million and received $1.58 million in revenue.
Lyscio said he did not believe the proposed school district budget cuts would affect the agreement with Baxter.
"Our hope is to break even," said Lyscio. "I'm not assuming that we'll be in the hole."
Lyscio said this agreement should make it easier for families to sign up for community education and Baxter Parks and Recreation programs. He said families would have one place to register instead of two.
"We'll do whatever we need to meet the needs of the children," said Lyscio.
Wayne Mooney, Brainerd parks and recreation director, said he did not have enough information to comment on this proposal.
Mooney, who started his job with Brainerd in October, said he is used to cities running their own parks and recreation programs. Mooney worked as the parks and recreation coordinator in West Fargo, N.D., before coming to Brainerd.
Mooney said he would not be interested in handing over Brainerd's parks and recreation programs to community education.
Mooney said he previously talked with Reponen about coordinating Brainerd's and Baxter's programs so the children could play each other in games. He said if Baxter's agreement with community education is approved, he will discuss his proposal with community education officials.
Coryell said Baxter worked with community education instead of Brainerd because community education deals with youths in Brainerd, Baxter and the surrounding communities.
Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said the city and community education already share fields and facilities and have a good working relationship. If community education takes the programs over, the two entities would continue to share the Baxter fields and facilities.
"We don't know if it will work out or not," said Olson. "Right now we have one full-time person who is very busy in the summer and does not have as much work in the winter ... This may not be the best economic route to go."
Olson said he was not sure why the city didn't think about pursuing an agreement with Brainerd.
"I think we didn't because we already had conversations with community ed," Olson said.
Lyscio said combining the three programs - Baxter, Brainerd and community education - would not be feasible. He said it would be too difficult to manage because of the magnitude of running all programs under one entity.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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