Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Bay looking for interim rec director

by Chris Schultz

January 31, 2013

WILLIAMS BAY - The village may be able to keep a staffer on the job after Jennifer Moore, the current recreation director, leaves on Jan. 31.

Moore has taken a fulltime position with Gage Marine.

Village board Trustee Marsha Engquist, who chairs the board’s parks and lakefront committee, said David Rowland, who worked as an intern and administrative assistant for the recreation department may be retained as the interim director.

Engquist’s committee oversees the recreation department.

Although Rowland submitted his resignation late last year, he agreed to stay on until the end of February, Engquist said in a telephone interview on Friday.

She said members of the parks and lakefront committee hope to meet with Rowland to discuss his staying on with the recreation department after February.

However, she said she didn’t know when that meeting would take place.

Moore was hired to work 25 hours a week, but she admitted to putting in more hours than that to help the village’s recreation program grow.

In earlier interviews, Moore had said that she had hoped that the improved performance of the recreation department would result in an increase in the department’s budget and a commitment to maintaining the new programs.

An attempt to increase the recreation budget, however, ran headlong into the village’s budget reality, that resulted in not only no increase in the recreation budget, but a small decrease, as well.

The village operates the recreation department, but there had been some talk on the village board and the Williams Bay School Board about the possibility of the school district taking over the recreation program.

State law allows school districts to fund district-wide recreation and community education programs through a special property tax separate from the school property tax called Fund 80. Fund 80 does not fall under the revenue caps that the school budget process must follow.

The Big Foot Recreation District, headquartered in Big Foot High School, Walworth, is funded that way.

However, in December, the school board announced it would not take on recreation at this time because it was concentrating its attention and resources on whether to build a new grade school, and where that school building might be located.

Already, programming has fallen off, Engquist said.

She said there were no recreation programs for parents and students during the Christmas vacation period.

However, if the village can keep an interim director in place, the recreation department can hold together its core programs, Engquist said.

That includes the the Winterfest Day in the Bay this weekend and Boo in the Bay during Halloween. Team sports will also be maintained.

What may yet suffer is the goal set by Engquist that the recreation department offer “womb to tomb” services, with programs for infants through seniors.

Moore was a real find for the recreation department. A native of Williams Bay and a graduate of Williams Bay High School, Moore has a degree in the performing arts and worked in marketing and advertising in New York City before moving back to Williams Bay to raise her son.

Before, the recreation department’s offerings were “blah,” Engquist said.

Programs, when offered, were not well publicized. Sometimes programs were scheduled and the people who volunteered to run the programs didn’t show up, or no participants signed up, she said.

Moore was asked to use her expertise to expand and improve the village’s recreation department offerings.

During 2012, the numbers of programs and participants increased compared to previous years.

Last year, with the encouragement of residents and the help of volunteers, the department pulled together programs that served the very youngest to the oldest.

In the first quarter of 2012, the recreation department quadrupled its numbers during the first quarter of last year, with 1,500 people signing up for programs in January, February and March, months not noted for many outdoor activities.

In summer 2012, 212 kids, ages 3 to 14, signed up for baseball. That was a considerable increase over the 85 who signed up for baseball and softball the year before.

Included in the baseball program was Little Hitters, a skill-building workshop for ages 3 to 5.

The department also added a drama program for youngsters 8 and older; yoga for adults, and a Zumba class.

The recreation department was also behind the Bay Bountiful Garden demonstration project, which was set up at the former Keg Room site in the village business district. The garden was intended to instruct beginning gardeners.

The department also tried to increase its presence in the schools.

Last year, the recreation department had a table at the Williams Bay High School Fun Fair and at the fall open house, as well.

For years, the village ran its recreation department with the assistance of George Williams College.

The village paid $20,000 a year to George Williams for a master’s student who worked 20 to 25 hours a week as recreation director. The fee was to offset the student’s tuition.

But the arrangement had its limitations.

Students did not work when school was not in session, and the the village could not offer programs on holidays and its summer programs were limited.

Quality was also iffy. Some students worked harder, or were more talented than others, which affected the quality of recreation programs from year to year.

Going back to that system may no longer be possible.

George Williams has since changed the focus of its recreation master’s degree program, and students are no longer available for the entire school year.