Town provides grant to Mount Allison for summer youth camps
Council debates whether handing over summer program was right decision
“I have problems with us turning it over to the university,” said Coun. Virgil Hammock. “I believe recreation programming is something we should be offering . . . it should be done in-house.”
The town decided last year to axe its summer youth programs and partnered with the university to take over the opera- tion of the day camps.
The decision stemmed from recommendations made in the town’s recreation master plan, which urged the municipality to move away from its role as a programprovider and instead focus on offering support to other organizations to run activities and events.
But Coun. Bruce Phinney said he
isn’t sure that’s the direction the town should be heading.
“We should be doing our own programming,” he said during council’s regular meeting earlier this month. “I think we did a disservice to this community by not being able to provide this program and not give jobs to our students.”
Coun. Joyce O’neil echoed her colleague’s concern.
“I think it’s a shame we threw that away, we let it slip through our hands,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Bob Berry said there are both pros and cons to letting the university take over the summer programs.
But he does understand the concern from townspeople - the cost of the camps went up last summer and most of the students hired last year for the counselor positions were from Mount A.
Coun. Merrill Fullerton argued, however, that the benefits of having a summer camp program on a university campus - led by university students in first-rate facilities - are huge.
“The expertise alone outweighs what we were able to offer,” he said.
Rebekah Cant, director of Sackville’s community development and programming department, also touted the advantages of the partnership with Mount A for the summer camps.
“It exposes our kids to the university and the facilities that they have there. And it gets us working with outside partners, which was one of the goals in the recreation master plan.”
And, of course, the town is saving money by no longer running the program itself. Although council did agree to dish out the $4,000 grant to Mount A, the town is still saving between $16,000 and $19,000 by cutting the summer camps.
In 2010, the last year of its operation under the town’s management, the cost to operate the youth program was between $20,000 and $23,000.
But Hammock argued that services should not always be cut as a penny-pinching measure.
“It’s not about cost recovery, it’s our youth we’re spending money on,” he said.
Councillors agreed to provide the grant to Mount A this year to operate the youth programming because they said the town isn’t in a position to bring it back for 2012. But they also suggested they would review the decision over the next few months to determine whether the town should reconsider its stance.