New vision for Youth Commission?

Monday night, 6/15/10 the Hartford Youth Commission held a special meeting to discuss parent concerns over the summer program for Middle League Boys’ Baseball and Girls’ Softball.

At the meeting I learned that the commission is having a hard time operating with the onerous financial restrictions put upon them.  The previous Hartford Town Board Administration had imposed a moratorium limiting spending to no more then $125 at a time. 

I feel that members of the Youth Commission would not have been appointed by the Town Board if they were not responsible citizens. To place such restrictive bounds upon them is counter productive. The Youth Commission is comprised of volunteers and this is no way to reward their hard work and dedication.

True, there may have been some irresponsible expenditures two years ago due to lack of oversite from the Commission but the way to fix the problem is to address the specific problem head-on and perhaps replace people instead of being reactionary and condeming the whole program.  Besides, I think  the composition of the commission is different now but they are paying the price for the transgressions of others.

Summer programs, unlike school time programs require paid Referees and Umpires. With this $125 limit, the commission contributes a small percentage towards the programs. I do not think that the commission should feel so impoverished and play such a small financial role especially considering the large amount of money in their fund. 

 My “Global” vision of the Youth Commission is this;

  • Remove the $125 Moratorium limit and raise the spending limit to $1,000 before special permission is needed by the Town Board. Since this moratorium motion passed in 2008 it will need to be overturned by the Town Board.
  • Many, many years ago (at least 15 years ago) there was a vibrant fund raising program to raise money to purchase land for playing fields. This $25,000 has been sitting in the Youth Commission account ever since gathering dust. Land was never found and one year rolled into the next and here we are some 15 or so years later with still no purchase of land. Let us give up on that idea. The time to buy the land was 15 years ago when school enrollment was up and the youth population was much higher than now. Buying land, if it were available would have been done long ago. Enrollment in school is down.  The need to purchase additional fields has long passed and the money just sitting there benefits no one.
  • Re-vitalize the plan the Commission brought forward 2 years ago to install a little kid baseball diamond behind the FireHouse. The Commission had lined up Hartford Volunteer Fire Company support, volunteer bulldozer work, and manual labor. At the time it was estimated that it would take about $5,000 to install a field on the  HVFC land. But this was turned down by the Town Board because they would not  have 100% ownership and control over the land.
  • If the Commission had an additional field behind the FireHouse and still used the fields at the school then they would have sufficient fields for the decreasing youth population and would not need to spend $25,000 on buying land.  No matter how much we may want it, there will never be a guarantee that the State will not mandate that the FireHouse requires a training facility, etc which would require the HVFC to take back the field. That should not deter us because you could spend all day dreaming up imaginary scenerios which would make you immobile if you succumbed to these worse fears.
  • With the FireHouse field, the need to buy land would be eliminated and the $20,000 remaining could be used on a conservative basis to decrease the amount of money the parents have to outlay in order for their kids to participate.
  • The Commission needs to be a little more demanding upon the parents to participate in fund raising. The Snack Shack is a good money maker but not when it is closed because parents resisted the call to contibute their time in manning it. With strong fundraising efforts the $20,000 available could stretch for 15-20 years. That is not impossible to accomplish especially when you consider the fact that the $25,000 came from zealous fundraising efforts to start with.
  •  The account  has $10,000 additional money set aside for equipment replacement. Some equipment has been replaced but much is still in poor shape. Get on with it and replace the equipment if it no longer provides protection and safety. There is sufficient money for this but not when you are restricted to spend no more than $125 at a time.
  • If a child gets injured and needs an icepack the coach can get it at the Snack Shack. But what if there is no-one working the Snack Shack and the key to it has to be found? All coaches should be provided with an inexpensive red tool box or tackle box with SnapPack Chemical IcePacks and compress bandages. Not having to wait 10 minutes while some one searches for the Snack Shack key could make a big difference in bruising, swelling and recovery. I am not in favor of full blown First Aid Kits but most injuries will most likely be impact or collision types which would benefit from an icepack and/or compress bandage. I am no Doctor but I really doubt that you can worsen an injury or place a child in jeapardy with an icepack.

On Monday night, at the end, the Commission seemed to become energized at the prospects of my idea. They came in to the meeting looking a little down trodden and left with excitement about the future.

But, and this is a big BUT. I am only 1 vote out of 5 on the Town Board. Sometimes change is hard. If you support this idea please come to the next Town Board meeting on July 13th and let your opinion be known or call a Council Member (Barb Beecher, Lee Wilson, Bob Miller, & Kevin Eastman) and let them know.  Dont forget to talk to HVFC President Kevin McCarthy or Fire Chief Brian Jones, because they also need to be onboard with this since it is HVFC land. Please also let members of the Youth Commission know your support as well. Youth Commission Chairwoman Krissy Stewart just had her baby so Sarina Lavin Gibson is filling in as Chairwoman.

If you are against this plan, please let your thoughts be known as well.

Dana

14 Responses to “New vision for Youth Commission?”

  1. emily moon

    supervisor,your opening an issue that was successfully dealt with by the previous town board. the reasoning behind the boards freeze was because some of the volunteers were misusing funds and the current commission asked for the boards help. you need to talk to your board to understand what had happened during this time period as you seem to ignore your board most of the time. FUNDRAISING is a crucial part of this program and it doesn’t seem to sink in to anyone! check out other towns. There is no reason why the school shouldn’t continue to be used as the school is the hub of our community and if planned right 4 fields could be utilized. the school is there for the children as is the commission,don,t spend money foolishly to gain votes!

  2. supervisor

    Emily, thank you for your comment but I suspect that you are using an alias. I request that all commenters use their real name as it is very important that I know the opinions of actual Hartford residents. Dana

  3. Hello, I couldn’t make the meeting however, I have a few things that I would like to say and I am hoping that Supervisor Haff you will print this and read this at the next meeting where you are hoping for votes as well as share it with the Hartford Youth Commission….

    First off when I heard about the Fire House and a field there I was excited, however, after discussing this it was brought to my attention that it would not be a benefit to the families that jump between fields….which we do and a lot of others do. I remember years ago the Hartford Youth Commission (HYC) trying to get the fields down on Eldridge Lane…..I thought the two counties “donated” small amount of acreage to the HYC; or was going to donate….Was this all Hartford gossip or was is fact and if so is the opportunity still there? Now that would be a great place!! And they could put their time and effort into dugouts…..I can’t imagine dugouts are that much to build/purchase.

    I must say, as family members have grown up in this beautiful town and played all their lives on the HYC there was NEVER an issue with fields….and I am being told the very little kids always played on a field and never in between like they do now. Maybe these fields just aren’t being scheduled properly…..think about it, years ago enrollment was much hirer and they never had problems and now we have field problems…..hum…..now there’s something to think about!

    I don’t think they should purchase “tool boxes” to outfit with med supplies….Good Golly, Johnson and Johnson have great supplies in their small very affordable boxes….And if someone was willing to contact them (johnson and johnson) they would probably give HYC a discount on bulk purchase….Even better, what do the other Youth Commissions around here do? Maybe they would all want to go into the bulk buying power also (providing johnson and johnson are willing). What would be needed in these kits, of course no medicines, however I would think these should be part of the “box”…..bandages, sterile wipes, ice packs, etc…

    Whatever happened to business’ sponsoring the teams….I don’t think that happened this year…Now that is one of the EASIEST ways to bring revenue back into the account….Has anyone been at the Fort Ann Youth Commission Fields/Hudson Falls Fields? If so, they have those wonderful baseballs on the fence showing the sponsors (I’m sure they do regular team sponsors also). A lot of those baseball people are returning sponsors each year…..I don’t know what set up fees are for those but I know returning sponsors on a ball pay $150 for the season…..Now that is REVENUE!!!! 🙂

    Heard something about each family writing a check and if they didn’t work the snack shack then the check would be cashed….something like $75 check….I don’t think this is good….I think telling people what they must do or else is not the way to approach it….I think if HYC approaches it this way and actually goes through with this they are going to see a huge decrease in numbers participating…..and after all this is why we have the HYC…..for the kids!

    I heard bats were purchased at an enormous clip per bat! Dicks sells really nice bats and they are MUCH less then the dollar figure I heard.

    Equipment needs to be dealt with, we heard that all helmets are supposed to have face shields….If that is true, there were numerous teams that didn’t have that and that is just one thing off the top of my head; but I know there is more!

    I realize this is all on a volunteer basis and at one point in time most of us have all been there (whether it be on the commission, at the fund raisers or coaching)….I think sign up needs to be more than one day ~ there were a lot of kids that were denied playing because they didn’t get to that one day (I personally know of some that were sick or their parents were working)….there must be a better way to get the kids to sign up….Maybe sign up can run through a mail box at the school, just like PTA does…..just a thought!

    This year baseball fees were as follows:
    $20 ~ “uniform”
    $0 ~ no uniform
    …..Just a thought….Everyone should pay something even if it was $2-5 (to cover cost of trophy/medal)…..after all we want the HYC to grow and be able to provide for the kids when needed! Also think about this……medals (very easy to store) versus trophies…..big price difference…..are the trophies really needed? I’ve seen the Medals some of the kids are getting and they look nice and much easier to store…..Oh one on another note, I don’t believe I have seen trophies/medals for any of the other sports, just the spring base/softball, hum, aren’t the other sports just as important and rewardable?

    End of year…..what a huge disappointment to the kids, no organized end of year gathering…..Ok, so I hear there was problems one year, understandable, however, have it out back of the school (soccer field area)….I have heard that all the food/ice cream was always donated and the HYC didn’t pay for any of that…..if that was the case that is great! However, this year the responsibility of the end of year gathering was placed upon the coaches and that is not great, as stated above, volunteers…..and who knows what the financial status is of those great individuals that donated their time, energy and effort into teaching our kids…..maybe some of them couldn’t afford to do something, so what does that mean, the kids go without, and it makes the kids feel like they didn’t do as good as they should have; not to mention what pressure it might have put into the coach!

    Maybe a Youth Commission Blog would work for everyone to see and hear what is going on…..Not everyone checks to see what the Supervisor has to say……Just a thought! It would also be great to see where the money the commission has is being spent…..maybe that could be a yearend report on the Supervisors blog or the HYC Blog…..Similar to how Argyle Rescue and Hartford Fire Department does their donation mailers, HYC doesn’t need to do a mailer but being it is public info it is great to know where the money really goes!

    So Supervisor Haff, I think I have taken enough of your time, I thank you for listening…..As the saying goes……. “This is just one man’s opinion”

  4. supervisor

    Diana,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You have many good points which should be addressed to the Youth Commission itself. The next Youth Commission meeting will not be until Aug 2nd. Please attend that meeting and bring forth your ideas.

    I do not want Town Gov’t to attempt to micro-manage the Youth Commission. Town Gov’t should allow the Commission to govern themselves with general oversite from the Town. Public participation is key in having the Commission reflect the general Hartford public. Unfortunately the Commission may have meetings with sparce public attendence unless there is a hot potato issue.

    I have given the Commission some ideas but I want them to meet, decide and then come back to the Town Board with what ever requests they see fit. I do not want changes in the Youth Commission to be mandated from above unless it is an oversite measure to correct fraud, waste of budget, etc.

    The Commission is made up of parents that have experience in the program. My kids are not in the program so I do not want to lord over them because, quite frankly I would be incompetent at it. The Commission members have been appointed by the Town Board as responsible members and this is their field of specialty. If the Commission agrees on Program policies and publicly votes at public Youth Commission meetings then so be it.
    If parents do not attend meetings and submit their inputs then it is not fair to the Commission to gripe about it later. No program is written in stone and change can always happen but it is more efficient if it can be done during the planning stage before people get up in arms over it.

    I feel that the spending cap of $125 is way to low. If the Youth Commission is happy with that then so be it. I think that they should be allowed to contribute $250 per sport per gender in the Summer Programs but it is up to the Youth Commission to ask for the spending moratorium to be lifted to a reasonable level and alter their program expenditures. Some parents may think that $250 is not enough but by the time you multiply that by quite a few sports it really does add up to a significant amount.

    I also think that aggressive fund raising should be used to augment the fund balance in the account. If Fund raising becomes minimized, then the $25,000 that was earmarked for land will wither down to nothing in just a few years. I’d like the $25,000 supplement the program for at least 15 years. Jointa Galusha contributes $2,500 a year to the Commission but we should not heavily rely on “no effort” fundraising.

    The Fort Ann American Legion recently raised over $4,000 on a weekend with a coin drop at the Route 149/4 intersection. Why cant we do a coin drop in front of the school during an Americade weekend with kids dressed in sport uniforms? You would make more in one weekend than you would with many many car washes.

    The Fire Dept may have some plans for the field behind the FireHouse so spending money there now to create a field might not be fiscally responsible. 2 years ago that was not the case, but it may be now.

    Please click on “Departments” on this website and see the names of the Youth Commission. Krissy just had a baby and has her hands full with that. Chris Mitchell, as Vice Chair is picking up the slack. I would suggest talking to the Commission because change should come from within.

    I expect the Commission will have something to say about all these discussions at the July 13 Town Board meeting.

    Dana

  5. Diana

    Supervisor Haff,
    Unfortunately I will miss both of these meetings, the town meeting and the HYC meeting. Is there a way that you can please pass this info above on; so either it could be read at the next town meeting or the HYC meeting; as I will not be in the area for either of these meetings.

  6. supervisor

    Diana,

    Yes, I can pass on your comments to the HYC.

    Please send me an email to my town address supervisor@hartfordny.com including your full name plus Hartford address so that I can attach it to your letter and they will know that you are a Hartford citizen or a citizen of the School District (The HYC covers the Hartford School District area).

    At the TB meeting I will mention that I have the communication from you for the HYC.

    On another note, I spoke to ex supervisor Henry Galinari on July 4th and asked him about the Eldridge Lane Youth Commission field idea that you mentioned. He told me that shortly before he was injured he was in the final stages for a deal with the YMCA to come in and set up a center on Eldridge Lane. It was practically a done deal and part of it was that the county would let the HYC use landfill lands for fields. That would have been great because the Y would have brought gravity to the location and it wouldnt be a large vacant expanse. But, with Henry’s coma, hospitalization, and lengthy recovery of his head injury the YMCA opportunity was not picked up by the succeeding administration and it withered away. The Y has committed their Washington County location to Greenwich Village. What a terrible wasted opportunity for Hartford and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief when he told me this! Dana