The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 17, 2010

YMCA aiding city rec

Agency fills void after furlough

JOHNSTOWN — As part of painful budget cuts, Johnstown officials furloughed their sole recreation staffer – department Director Cliff Kitner – on Jan. 1.

That left concerns about the future of popular recreation programs such as baseball, tennis and softball.

But administrators at Greater Johnstown Community YMCA now are filling that void, taking over management of many city programs while also pledging to add a few more.

“We felt this is really our strong suit, so we wanted to reach out and say, ‘Let us help,’ ” said Sharon Jones, YMCA executive director.

“Why reinvent the wheel when this is what we do every day?”

Since Kitner’s departure, it has fallen mostly to Public Works Director Darby Sprincz to plan for a busy summer recreation schedule in addition to handling his job’s daily duties.

“I give Darby all the credit in the world,” city Councilman Pete Vizza said. “Here’s a guy with a full plate, especially with all the snow we had, and he really stepped up and did a spectacular job.”

But public works and recreation, Sprincz said, were “not a good mix.”

“It’s been hectic,” he said. “I’m glad (the YMCA) stepped up when they did. Had they not, I truly believe a lot of things may have fallen through the cracks.”

The YMCA agreement is the product of several meetings between Jones and city officials. It will work this way: Sprincz will continue to handle baseball matters for the Colt, Pony and All-American Amateur Baseball Association leagues.

But Jones said the YMCA now will oversee Roxbury Park-based sports including basketball, roller hockey, women’s softball, tennis and volleyball.

“In addition, we’re hoping to bring some additional programming such as pilates in the park, maybe tai chi,” she said, while adding that she cannot yet be sure how many recreational opportunities the YMCA may add this year.

“It’s a growing year for us,” Jones said.

On the baseball front, Sprincz said he expects no changes this year with the possible exception of the city’s Colt league.

Sprincz has three Colt teams and has players as well as a possible sponsor for a fourth. But a fourth manager still is needed.

“If I don’t obtain a fourth Colt team, there probably won’t be a league this year,” he said.

Sprincz said anyone with baseball-related questions can call him at 533-2061. Those with inquiries on other city sports leagues now can contact the YMCA’s Vicki Clark at 535-8381.

Taking on city programs will not strain the YMCA because warm-weather sports don’t coincide with the Haynes Street organization’s busiest season, Jones said.

She also believes that the partnership will benefit her organization by giving the YMCA more physical space – Roxbury Park – to expand its offerings.

City Manager Kristen Denne said the YMCA deal “will be a very good partnership that has ended up costing the city no money.”

In fact, it’s saving money for the cash-strapped city: Officials say the recreation director’s compensation package, including salary and benefits, had stood at more than $60,000 annually last year.

Plus, Denne said outsourcing to the YMCA means she no longer will have to hire a part-time recreation coordinator.

That will save another $18,000 that already had been allocated for that position in this year’s budget.

“This is how the city is going to end up succeeding – through shared partnerships,” Denne said.

 

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