Assembly Favorable to City Rec Initiative

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly expressed support Thursday for a revitalized community recreation program with a target start date of July 1.

It’s not clear what the program would look like, but the idea presented by the Community Recreation Initiative group at the Assembly’s special budget meeting calls for a centralized program run by the city.

The program would offer organized recreational activities similar to those in the old Community Schools program, which no longer exists.

Assembly members were supportive of the CRI project, but asked for more details on how it would work.

“If we do this it will be a huge investment, but I believe it will pay off in a number of other ways,” Assembly member Kevin Mosher said.

Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz said he pictured the new program covering more than the list of services presented by the initiative group. He cited playgrounds, parks and ballfields today as possible areas the new department could manage.

At present, “Community Recreation” is in the administrator’s 2022-2023 budget at $213,613 to cover the cost of a parks and recreation coordinator and a specialist. 

Additional labor would be needed for the recreation program, but the initiative group outlined plans to use in-kind contributions by school district staff and volunteers, and user fees to cover the costs of instructors, referees, supplies and such.

About a decade ago Community Schools covered half of its budget with user fees.

“I was really encouraged by the response of the Assembly,” Andrew Friske, spokesman for the Community Recreation Initiative, said today.

City Administrator John Leach was asked today about how he sees the program going forward.

“My intent with the position is to revive a full parks and rec department to meet the community recreation requests from multiple stakeholders,” he said.

It would be a city department, managed and funded by the city.

The organizing group used a successful program in Homer as a model to rejuvenate a program here. The idea is for “centralized community recreation opportunities provided on an ongoing basis.”

Friske said the new program is intended as a public service for citizens, which will cost money. But he said the community would benefit in many ways, such as increased social, educational and recreation opportunities, and coordination of facility use. 

“We feel it can be positive when considering moving to or from Sitka,” Friske said.

Asked whether it would increase the city’s insurance bill, Friske said he inquired and was told any increase would be small.

Friske talked about some of the work the steering committee conducted, including outreach about the needs in the community. Among the needs expressed by the public were childcare, early childhood activities and summer activities.

He also told the Assembly about the funding opportunities through other nonprofits, as well as private citizen donations.

Thursday’s special meeting was one of a series to make decisions on final figures for the city general fund and enterprise funds. The budget package will be presented for approval on first reading May 10.

After the recreation initiative presentation, the Assembly considered other items in the general fund, including new positions needed to address the expected economic growth in Sitka from cruise ship tourism, SEARHC expansion, and a new Coast Guard vessel that may be homeported here. 

City staff took a “cautious but optimistic approach” in creating the status quo budget with additions for new positions, services needed for new programs, and improvements to core services. It calls for spending $3.4 million on infrastructure, and finishing the fiscal year with more than $600,000 in surplus.

More on the meeting will be reported in Monday’s Sentinel.

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 5-25-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 pm Wednesday, May 25.

New cases as of Wednesday: 1,911

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 251,425

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,252

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,776

Current Hospitalizations – 46

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "medium.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Cases in last 7 days – 25

Cumulative Sitka cases – 2,658

Hospitalizations (to date) – 32

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

  

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20 YEARS AGO
May 2002

 

From Sitka’s Past by Robert DeArmond: May 14, 1878 – The steamer California brought a cannery crew to Sitka for one of the first two salmon canneries in Alaska. The cannery, located at Starrigavan, operated for only two seasons and was abandoned.

50 YEARS AGO
May 1972

 The work of four Sitka artists will be represented in the Ketchikan Arts and Crafts Guild Traveling Show. The artists are Alice Bergdoll, Linda Larsen, Marilyn Nevers and Clint Miller.

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