The Canal Winchester Times

Canal Winchester

Officials eye return to joint recreation district

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Representatives from Canal Winchester schools and the Canal Winchester Recreation Organization say the private nonprofit organization isn't working and it's time for a change.

And after a recent presentation by Bob Toledo, Matt Krueger and CWRO Director Val Webster, Canal Winchester City Council agreed to work with the law director and the schools to determine how to move forward with reinstating the Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District to replace the CWRO, possibly as soon as January 2014.

"Here's the reality: The CWRO is struggling from day to day," Toledo said. "I provided the closed-out financial sheet to you, and they're OK from a financial standpoint. But they've had mass turnover in the structure itself and are having a hard time getting volunteers. The meetings have been a back-and-forth fight, and it's not healthy."

As an example, Toledo said, over the summer, a single volunteer had to coach four different baseball teams.

He said the CWJRD, which is considered a political subdivision and thus a public government entity, is still in place, even though the CWRO, a private, nonprofit organization, has been running recreational sports leagues in Canal Winchester for the past few years.

Toledo said currently, the only employee of the CWRO is Webster, and the all-volunteer board of trustees is seeing turnover every six to eight months.

"A lot of board members were making decisions for their own kids and not based on everyone as a whole," he said. "What I've noticed is a lot of decisions are made regarding those kids, and then when those kids are done, those parents that volunteered leave, too, and you have to start all over.

"There's a lot to be said about having rules and regulations in place and having the sunshine laws and having the financials out in the open."

Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon, who has served on the CWJRD, asked what the change back to the CWJRD from the CWRO would do for activity registration and organization finances.

"We'll save over half of our insurance costs by being a government entity instead of a nonprofit, which will pay for us to hire a professional trained in government accounting to help with the finances," Toledo said.

He said one concern that led to the switch to the CWRO was inexperience in government accounting practices on the original CWJRD board.

"It costs a lot of money to run these programs, especially with the private insurance, but the CWRO also has nicer equipment than some of the schools' programs," Toledo said. "Registration is down, so is it because it's too expensive?"

City Finance Director Amanda Jackson said she believes the joint recreation district would have a hard time finding an accounting firm to meet its needs, but might find a retired government accountant to take on the job part-time.

"You need someone who can focus on CWJRD to do that day to day," she said. "There are plenty of people who have retired from government accounting and might pick this work up and can help Val part time. You're going to need someone to do that."

Overall, council members said they are receptive to moving forward with reinstating the CWJRD as the driver of Canal Winchester's recreational activity planning and management, as long as it would mean better oversight and greater participation.

An added benefit to the CWJRD would be the ability to reinstate adult recreation programs that the CWRO was not allowed to offer under its current structure.

Mayor Michael Ebert asked what would be different this time that would mean the CWJRD would be successful, when it hasn't been in the past.

Toledo said having four of the five board members be elected officials -- two school board members and two city council members -- with one appointed board chair, would work better. He said this would give residents the opportunity to vote members out if they are doing a poor job of managing the organization.

Council members Mershon, Joe Abbott, Rick Deeds and Steve Donahue all agreed.

"Having elected officials on the board means it is our reputation at stake," Mershon said.

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