ORLEANS — Recreation Director Alan Harrison has proposed a fee schedule for the town's youth sports and summer day programs, which are now free.
Harrison told the selectmen last week that the neighboring communities of Brewster, Chatham, Eastham and Harwich all charge for their similar programs and are able to offer more to their citizens.
Since his arrival in September, Harrison said, he's talked with parents, other town employees, and recreation directors in other towns. What he's found, he said, is an interest in expanded offerings and a willingness to pay fees.
“I say this not to be negative about past history,” Harrison said, “(but) a lot of people have taken their kids to other towns and paid for their son or daughter...because maybe they felt not enough was being offered here.”
Municipal fee comparisons made by Harrison show that Brewster, Chatham, and Eastham charge $30 for soccer and basketball and Harwich $40 while Orleans charges nothing. The numbers are similar for baseball, softball, and field hockey (Chatham does not offer that sport). Summer programs for the four towns run from $125 to $275.
For Orleans, Harrison said, there should be a $30 youth sports fee starting in September for soccer, basketball, baseball, soccer, and field hockey, per sport. About a third of that would pay for a T-shirt for each player, with additional money to be used for equipment, repairs of nets, certificates for players, and training for coaches and parent volunteers.
Participation in the summer day recreation program would cost $125 for six weeks, $75 for three weeks, and $45 for one week or less. “These fees would be used primarily to provide participants with increased specialty instruction in yoga, Zumba, dance, fitness, bowling, tennis and other feasible activities and field trips,” Harrison wrote in a submission to the board.
Asked by Selectman Mefford Runyon about scholarships for Orleans residents for whom the fees would be a hardship, Harrison said it's “not something that's publicized, but there is something in place.”
Even though most of the other towns also charge for swimming lessons, Harrison did not include a fee for that. “With Cape Cod, there's water everywhere. I didn't feel the need to add an additional cost for swimming.”
“We'll consider your proposal as we go over the budget,” selectmen chairman Jon Fuller told Harrison. “Speaking for myself, I can't see us going from zero to $30 at one hit.”
Harrison also proposed increasing his own hours from 30 to 35 starting in July. “Building new programs may take some more hours,” he said. In addition, Harrison wants to boost the pay per hour of the summer playground director to “hire someone with a little more experience, maybe a teacher off for the summer rather than a high school or college student.” The playground director, he said, “is on that site and handles a lot of the day-to-day decisions whereas the recreational director oversees it all (and) could be at Orleans Elementary, Nauset Middle School, the tennis courts, or one of the beaches for the swimming program.”
Selectman Mark Mathison asked why, rather than raising the playground director's pay, Harrison's requested extra hours couldn't incorporate playground supervision in the summer and still allow time for program development in the off-season.
“What I'm planning as recreation director is to expand opportunities for the entire town,” Harrison said. “I'm not limiting my skills toward the youth for the summer. I'm looking at adult programs. For example, we've started an adult tai chi program, and also started a program with the experience I have to help senior citizens with balance.” Harrison said he is teaching those classes.
Also at last week's meeting, Council on Aging Director Patrick Curtin spoke of collaborating with Harrison to create a men's fitness class to be taught by the recreation director at the senior center. Programs at the senior center are open to those 60 and older, an ever-growing cohort. In a memo to the board, Curtin quoted Gov. Charlie Baker's statement that, by 2020, there will be more Massachusetts citizens over 65 than under 18.
“We're getting to the point of getting crunched for space and time,” Curtin said in reply to a question from Selectman Alan McClennen. “We're adding to an already packed schedule and classes are very well attended, (but) we're not quite busting at the seams.”
Resident and non-resident seniors can pay fees and attend programs at the center. Town Administrator John Kelly said there “may need to be a re-focus on Orleans' needs first,” but Mathison suggested that bringing in people from out of town could allow greater variety of offerings. “I understand the responsibility to pay the bills,” he said, “but we need to be very careful we don't shoot ourselves in the foot here.”