ORLEANS — A new revolving fund will receive fees from courses run by the recreation department, but that bookkeeping change is just a bunny hop compared to the strides envisioned by the recreation advisory committee. They want to grow the town’s programs, and also find out what sort of community center Orleans would like to have.
“We have an opportunity to influence the board of selectmen as they approach the fall (town) meeting,” chair Anne Sigsbee told the committee June 25, “since the decision of the board was not to alter the budget in any major fashion because of the pandemic, but to collect information on the status of town finances and work on altering the budget in the fall.”
With this year’s rec programs expected to generate “significantly less than previous summers,” member Joan Francolini said, “we have the opportunity to go back to the selectmen and explain that the revolving set-up does not serve the full needs of the committee.” She suggested meeting with the finance committee first, an idea backed by member Kyle Wibby. “They might have a better read on the town than we might have,” he said. Sigsbee said it’s important to “promote recreation but be very sensitive” to people’s financial struggles.
Wibby was praised for his work on a town meeting article to fund a feasibility study of a community center. Like all the petitioned articles scheduled for this year’s annual town meeting, action has been postponed until a special town meeting in the fall, likely on Oct. 26.
“We need to renew interest in the article,” Wibby said. “We had a lot of momentum going into this (recent) town meeting, and then the pandemic happened. As we get close to that fall time frame, we’ll put some messaging out there… There’s a lot of underground current supporting this. All we’re asking is for a small amount of money to see, if it’s possible, how to get it done. We’re not saying to the town, ‘Let’s get it done.’”
Citing the recent study of affordable housing needs, Wibby said, “The whole point of a feasibility study is to identify if there is a need. Do we need a basketball court, a pool, a meeting space, a town gym? What would the pieces cost? Where would it fit, town-owned property or acquired (land)? The purpose is to answer all those questions.”
Sigsbee said former planning board chair Andrea Reed, now a member of the select board, had expressed interest in meeting with the committee to help plan the survey. She said Reed mentioned that a community center study was done years ago and could prove useful. Noting that the town is also considering a new library, Sigsbee said “the library is talking about having some community pieces,” and if the community center was proximate to the library, there would be shared resources.
Her sense, Sigsbee said, “is that there’s a very big appetite for thinking about this finally. Standing in line for the town meeting, a guy behind me said, ‘All of this is well and good, but what about the community center?’ I said, ‘Stay tuned.’”
The committee will continue working to raise the profile of recreation needs by asking that one of its members be appointed to the community preservation committee. Open space, community housing, historic preservation, and recreation are the four purposes for which CPA funds can be spent, and the committee wants to bring projects before the community preservation committee for funding next year.
Summer recreation sessions were scheduled to begin this week. For details, go to https://orleansma.myrec.com/info/default.aspx