Parks and Recreation Commission gives youth basketball league grace period on fees

The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission approved a motion Tuesday night to provide the Youth Basketball Association a grace period — lasting until Feb. 17, 2014 — from paying $20 per hour to use the Chester Hynes Community Center.

The commission made the decision in recognition of the fact that the new fee, which was approved in August as part of a revised set of rules for use of the Chester Hynes and Merrill community centers, was not communicated to YBA director Garland Broom until after the Nov. 1 start of the YBA season.

“The YBA will be responsible for paying $750 for use of Chester Hynes through Feb. 17, after which time the YBA will pay $20 per hour for its use,” Commissioner Jeff Pulliam said. “This is separate from the $100 per month that Mr. Broom pays for use of the office in Chester Hynes.”

The fee is intended in part to go toward paying the salary of a city employee who will be responsible for locking and unlocking the facilities when they are in use and for remaining on site while the facilities are in use.

Broom had said that the YBA could not afford what adds up to more than $1,300 per month in fees.

“Doing that this year will be a hardship,” Broom said during a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission Financial Committee on Monday afternoon.

Broom said the youth basketball games begin Jan. 10 and continue until March 22.

“This is a grassroots effort on the part of our coaches who volunteer their time to work with these children,” Broom said Monday.

In answer to questions from commission members, Broom said that the YBA chargesa $60 fee per child and that approximately 75 percent of these children are able to pay.

Broom said that at least 250 children participate in the program and that an admission fee of $2 per adult and $1 per child is charged to spectators.

“When it is all added up the YBA makes up to $15,000 during a season,” Commissioner Christopher Blunt said during the Tuesday night meeting. “You can’t tell me that you can’t afford to pay $1,300 per month for use of the facility.”

Blunt said the Parks and Recreation Commission was in a situation where budget cuts forced it to find new ways to bring in revenue.

In other business the commission approved an adjustment to the employment contract of incoming Parks and Recreation Director April Layher.

“We need to find a way to offset the loss of hours that she had accumulated for time served in her job with the state,” said Commission Chair Kami Hunt. “In the Personnel Committee meeting yesterday we discussed adding $2,800 to her salary to make up a part of that loss.”

The adjustment provides that Layher will start with a salary of $47,000 per year that will increase to $51,800 per year after a 90-day probationary period.

The original contract provided for a bump in salary from $47,000 to $49,000 after a 90 day probationary period.

Layher — who officially takes up her post Jan. 1, 2014 — spoke briefly about her initial plans for the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The future of Pine Bluff lies in the youth,” Layher said. “We have a lot of really good kids here and I look forward to coming up with new programs for them. I want to meet with each commissioner individually and I plan to have weekly staff meetings every Monday. I want to have in-depth meetings with the commission on the 2014 budget.”

The commission agreed to close the community centers and the parks office from Dec. 23-31 in order to save money. Office Manager Melissa McHan said that all of the affected employees had already agreed to use vacation days if they have them or to forgo being paid during that time if they don’t have vacation time.