Newport summer rec makes a comebackThe future looked bleak for Newport’s struggling summer recreation program last month after city council members voted to shift the seasonal park program’s funding elsewhere in a tightened 2009 budget.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
The future looked bleak for Newport’s struggling summer recreation program last month after city council members voted to shift the seasonal park program’s funding elsewhere in a tightened 2009 budget.
But on Thursday, the parents who stood up and implored Newport’s five council members to reconsider heard just what they’d hope they would.
“If we can come up with a revised, lower budget (for summer rec),” Mayor Tim Geraghty said, “I’m willing to look at it again this year.”
It was great news for Lori Kupfer, a resident who Thursday exhorted the council to consider bringing the program back for the upcoming summer.
Kupfer — a Newport mother and daycare provider who has led the push to save the beleaguered program — addressed the council and, joined by two other fans of summer rec, told city leaders of the many disappointed kids left in the wake of their decision to transfer the $11,600 budgeted for the program to other areas of the budget.
“This is a lot more for these kids than just playtime in the park,” Kupfer told council members.
The city council in February had taken $5,000 of summer rec funding and allocated it to the Newport Athletic Association’s baseball program. The remaining $6,600 was shifted to the general fund.
It wasn’t done, city councilmember Pauline Schottmuller said, because the program had little value. It just had too few attendees, she said. Only around 30 kids participated in the program last summer, officials say.
That’s almost $400 per child.
“We saw value in the program,” she told Kupfer. “We just looked at it and said we needed more value out of it.”
Council member Tom Ingemann said a per-child fee might make the program more budget-friendly — and would act as an attendance incentive for the program that officials say has seen turnout sag.
Kupfer said she believes most parents would be willing to pay for their kids to participate in summer rec, a place she said kids can build friendships and self-esteem and get supervised time outside.
She said most parents likely had no idea of the hefty cost of summer rec, but that a slimmed-down program would still benefit Newport kids.
“They just need to be kids and have fun with other kids,” Kupfer said.
The city will examine ways to pare program costs, Geraghty said, saying only that the city would look again at funding summer rec in 2009.