Gill, Council Hold off Paying Parks and Rec Bills

Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Cary Shuman

Council President Peter Gill personally postponed a vote on whether to pay two bills totaling $6,200 that were incurred by the Parks and Recreation Department in 2011 and 2012.

“This motion requires a unanimous vote and I’m not going to vote for it,” said Gill following a discussion of the bills at the meeting Tuesday night. “I’m not satisfied with the description of the bills. I’m not satisfied with the fact some of this is coming out of 2011 and the motion reads 2012.”

Prior to the vote on whether to send the matter to the Citizens Finance Commission, Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore said, “If you want to send this back to the Commission, I won’t object to that, but I hope the Commission is going to look into the whole enterprise fund, because I don’t think the Parks and Rec should be an enterprise fund. I think it should go back to being a department of the town like it was before [former Town Manager] Rick White came in and made them an enterprise fund.”

Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers said he agreed with Boncore’s sentiments.

“I think in this particular issue we have somebody whom the town owes money to and I think we need to decide forthwith whether if we’re going to pay that person because it’s not fair to their finances to have the payment held up because of long-term discussions by the Town Council,” said Powers.

Power said the Citizens Finance Committee had recommended payment of the bills.

“I have great respect for the members of the Finance Commission [but] the Finance Commission doesn’t make recommendations for anything for this Council,” said Powers. “The Finance Commission is strictly an advisory unit that works in an advisory capacity.”

Saying the bills represent “a relatively small amount of money at this point,” Powers suggested that the Council should pay the bills immediately.

Councilor Russell Sanford, sensing that the vote wasn’t going to be unanimous, said, “It is imperative that it goes back to the Finance Commission so we can get some clarification and bring it back to the full Council for a unanimous vote.”

The Council voted by a 7-1 margin to send the matter to the Finance Commission, with Powers casting the sole “no” vote.

The expenses for the bills stem primarily from a youth lacrosse program that Parks and Recreation director Sean Driscoll launched in response to the growing popularity of the sport and the interest in the town from young players.

Driscoll did correctly gauge the interest in the fast-paced sport that is played with sticks and a rubber ball on a grass field. He said that the program has grown to 94 participants, a very large turnout in Winthrop for a sport that is not considered among the long-established programs [basketball, hockey, football, baseball, and soccer] on the youth scene.

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