Combined youth rec program moves forward

HANOVER — After two recent meetings between members of the four stakeholder entities, an initial agreement has been reached that a single umbrella youth recreation program for Hanover, Silver Creek and Forestville school district would best serve the interests of all involved.

In the wake of the village of Forestville’s dissolution, the Silver Creek-Hanover-Forestville Youth Center Association, which was incorporated in 1989, became splintered. This resulted in Silver Creek running its own summer program and Forestville school district running theirs, with funding support coming partially from the town of Hanover.

Louis Pelleter, Hanover councilmember, has been spearheading the mission, in alignment with the town board’s wishes, to resurrect the idea of one program for all.

Unfortunately, with so many variables involved, Pelleter was having a challenging time getting a unanimous thumbs up from all participating parties. That is, until now.

A meeting held at the end of September brought roughly a dozen board members and other officials from Silver Creek village, Hanover, Forestville school district and the Youth Center Association. After a two-hour session of hashing out a variety of concerns, the group gave Pelleter the answer he was looking for: one program for all is the best way to go and all involved will do what it takes to make it work.

Although representatives from the Silver Creek school district were not able to attend that meeting to verify their cooperation, a later meeting took place last week involving school Superintendent Todd Crandall, who voiced his excitement for the idea.

“Alone we can’t accomplish as much as if we worked together,” said Crandall. “I know I can speak for the board (of education), if it’s good for kids, it’s good for all kids. In a generalized manner, the board will support these concepts.”

Crandall said if the Silver Creek school would be considered as a place to hold any lengthy programs, more communication would have to take place.

“If we get to the point where we want specifics of where we want to run eight weeks (for example) at our school in the summer, I’d have to consider maintenance costs, cleaning the cafeteria, garbage pickup. But I’m confident we can make it work.”

With everyone on board, the next step will be to create a budget. Pelleter said the previous program, before it splintered into two, cost roughly $12,000 and currently Hanover has $10,000 budgeted for next summer’s program.

“If the town can come up with ($10,000) and we can raise some money, Silver Creek can come up with money and maybe we can do away with the high cost that we charge per family, we can do some donations, we can have one program,” Pelleter told the group. “If I can get the town to do a year-round busing (system), have the town pay for that separately, since that’s a steeper line item, we can probably keep the cost down for everybody if everybody is doing it that way.”

Part of coming up with the budget is deciding whether to charge families a fee. The past couple of years, Silver Creek has been charging, while Forestville has not.

Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said “we charge a minimum fee. That keeps our tax dollars down (in the village).”

Trustee Jeffrey Hornburg supported the idea of charging a fee, as parents who make the investment would be more likely to keep their children involved.

“When you don’t charge and it’s gratis, it’s abused,” Hornburg said. “When you have a financial interest in it you’re going to make sure it happens. Say we’ve hired counselors with 80 students in mind. When only 40 of them show up we have six counselors standing around twiddling their thumbs. We want the participation. In my opinion a fee makes the participation more eventful.”

Pelleter suggested if the program is to charge parents, it should be at a very low cost.

“I would like to make it a very reasonable program, maybe charging a little bit,” Pelleter said. “Being a cop here I know the poverty level and I’ve heard ‘I can’t send my kids because I don’t have the money.’ I’ve heard that a million times. I’d like to keep it very, very reasonable, but not a free program.”

Other suggestions included creating a sliding scale fee system, or else have parents without the funds volunteer their time in exchange for paying a fee.

The next two challenges for the joint rec program will be deciding where it should be centrally located, how to divide the age groups, and how to handle the bussing situation.

Members of the Youth Rec Center and all interested parties are continuing to meet to help iron out all these challenges.

“Our big picture vision is that it won’t just be a summer program, said youth rec board member Amy Drozdziel. “There will be year round activities, we just don’t know what those will look like yet; we’re still in the beginning stages.

“Our focus going back into February has just been to get that summer program off the ground.”

The next meeting will take place this evening at 7 p.m. at the Hanover Town Hall. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.