After receiving input at a public forum held to gauge long-range needs at the Clinton Recreation Department, city managerial staff shared its own plans for the immediate future — that includes an optimistic timeline under which a new director would be hired within the next month and baseball fields would begin to be expanded in the coming weeks.
A master plan for Royal Lane Park is also being developed and citizen feedback from Monday’s forum, as well subsequent meetings and an impending survey, is expected to assist in that regard. The plan will act as a guide toward improving facilities that are around 40 years old.
“Youth athletics is something we are working on,” said assistant manager Shawn Purvis. “We are in the process of doing a master plan for Royal Lane at this time. Most of the amenities down there are 35, 40 years old and it takes a lot to keep them up. We are trying to fix a lot of those things, from tennis courts to more field space for football and soccer. Those things are expensive and we are trying to do it in the best way possible, to stretch the dollar as far as we can.”
City staff is also looking to fill the recreation director position sooner rather than later.
“We have some vacancies so we’re trying to work through and get some organization in recreation,” Purvis said. “We’re taking applications for recreation director at this time and we are going to start reviewing those this week.”
He said existing recreation staff was doing a great job, even as short-staffed as the department is currently.
“There is lots going on,” Purvis told those in attendance at the forum, “but at any time, feel free to call them or call me or email me. Anytime you have questions or comments, good or bad, we’re always here to listen. We want to make sure programs are there for citizens of all backgrounds, ages, everything you can think of. To be successful, we have to be an all-inclusive department.”
At Monday’s meeting, a dozen people shared comments, concerns and wishes about recreation, ranging from seniors who did not want to be forgotten as part of a renewed focus toward youth athletics to those youth sports proponents who implored the importance of returning Royal Lane and city recreation back to its former glory.
Purvis emphasized that Monday’s meeting would not be the last chance for the public to give feedback, with city staff working to construct a public survey to widen the pool of public input. More forums would also be scheduled, with dates to be announced down the line.
“We’ll have some surveys out, and we’ll have at least three more meetings over the next couple months as we develop that plan.” said Purvis. “There will be other opportunities as we move forward.”
The surveys would act as another tool toward developing the long-range plan for recreation. However, much more immediate action would be forthcoming at the Royal Lane baseball fields.
“Some changes you will start seeing out there is, within the next two weeks, the baseball fields are going to start to be expanded. We’ve already talked about getting a lot of that lined up, so you will be seeing some movement out there as far as that goes,” Purvis said. “We are trying to move forward, we are trying to do things. Sometimes time and money takes a little bit longer than we would like to admit. Bear with us.
“The biggest thing right now is receiving your input so this board can talk about it amongst themselves and the staff, put plans together and make recommendations to Council as to what policy decisions and budget decisions to make.”
New director search
Purvis said a new director may be only a month away, but city officials have as their ultimate goal finding the correct fit for the city’s recreation program regardless of time frame.
Some two dozen applications have already been received for the recreation director position and are beginning to be reviewed this week.
“Ideally, within the next two weeks we would have an idea of a few finalists that we would start to interview,” said Purvis. “Then, you would want to have at least a couple weeks after that to formalize a hire and they would come on board. We would love to have somebody in place by the end of October. That’s the hope.”
Purvis said the city would not settle, so while the end of next month was the goal, it was subject to change based on the quality of candidates. If the right fit was not seen, the city would take more time.
“We want to make sure we get the right person,” said Purvis. “If we don’t feel it’s in this pool, then we’ll move on. Hopefully within the month, within four to five weeks, there will be someone in place.”
The hiring of an athletic director would likely be considered following the hire of a director. Both positions are currently vacant, the most recent being the recreation director post vacated by Judi Nicholson in July after nine years in the position. Purvis said hiring the rec director position was the priority, with the AD post to be evaluated at a later date.
“It depends on the strengths of the director,” Purvis said. “At this point, we are looking for someone who hopefully has some experience in youth athletics. Depending on how strong they are, it may be an area where (existing staff) can help fill that (AD position).”
City manager John Connet said anyone with questions or comments about recreation was encouraged to contact Shawn Purvis at 910-592-1961. Recreation Advisory Board members said they also welcomed any questions or comments, especially during such a crucial time for city recreation.
“I’m here for you guys. If you have any ideas on how I can help, call me,” said Rec Advisory Board member Brooks Barwick. “I’d love to hear from you. I sometimes feel like we don’t hear enough from you guys. So please give us a call.”
“Feel free to contact us at any time,” Rec Advisory Board member Gib Palmer echoed. “They (The Council) listen to us when we have something to say, so we are your voice. This was very informative and I would encourage us to do this again at some point in time.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.