Costs of Newport recreation programs higher than expected

Posted May 08, 2012, at 5:54 p.m.
Last modified May 08, 2012, at 6:18 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — A few of Newport’s selectmen were a little surprised to see the Newport Recreation Center’s budget for sports nearly gone so early in the year.

Town Manager James Ricker said the recreation program has spent about $5,500 on sports equipment this year for baseball and softball programs. That’s all the recreation program had in its line-item budget for equipment for the year.

“The whole rec program is all new to us,” said Ricker. “The surprise came in the expense of softball and baseball. Certain members of the Board [of Selectmen] thought expenses would go down significantly [over last year].”

The Newport Recreation Center, formerly known as the Sebasticook Valley Community Center, is in its second year of existence. The town now runs the center and the entire budget for the recreation program is $50,000 — $30,000 of which goes toward heating the aged building.

In its first year last year, the recreation program started from scratch and had to buy new equipment and uniforms for its baseball and softball programs. Ricker said $8,000 was spent in all.

“Last year, we had to purchase absolutely everything,” said Recreation Director Adam Noyes. “We had to furnish enough equipment for three softball teams and five baseball teams. Bats, balls, helmets, uniforms, everything.”

After buying a lot of equipment last year, Noyes was surprised he had to buy so much more this year.

“We’ve got more kids this year than last year at this time for baseball and softball. That was the biggest reason for the unexpected expenses,” said Noyes. “It’s kind of like taking your car to the garage for an inspection to find out you need $2,000 of front-end work.”

Part of the reason for the increase is that Plymouth no longer is fielding baseball teams this year. Most of those kids came to Newport, said Ricker.

Nonresidents pay $15 per child per sport or $25 per family per sport, said Ricker. Newport residents pay no additional fees for recreation programs.

Ricker said it has been a learning experience for the town and its recreation program. The town is working on ways to make it self-sufficient.

“Right now it’s about a 60-40 split — 60 [percent of the program’s money comes] from the town budget and 40 [percent] is from user fees, building rental, etc.,” said Ricker.

He added that the recreation program is not out of funds for the rest of the year because it still has $4,000 in an account for expenditures that it can use for equipment and other needs. Any other money generated from fees or rentals also can be used. Basketball, soccer and cheering are three sports still left to play this year, said Noyes.

But baseball and softball require the most equipment and therefore are more expensive, said Noyes.

Ricker was quick to praise Noyes and his work as the rec director.

“I think when [the selectmen] got looking at the overall expenditures, there were some knee-jerk reactions to it,” said Ricker. “I think Adam continues to do a fine job.”

If the price continues to be high to field baseball and softball teams, Ricker said the Board of Selectmen may have to look again at fees.

“Are we going to keep getting bigger and bigger with the teams without trying to generate revenue? It’s going to be a challenge for the selectmen,” said Ricker.

For now, Noyes said he’s having fun coaching teams and watching the kids have fun on the ball fields.

“It’s a lot of fun to watch these little kids get their first hit. It’s just a good atmosphere [to watch games],” said Noyes.

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