The pool area has been closed since March 1 because of moisture that collected as a result of a problem with the ridge cap on top of the building.
Maroney and members of the Carpenter Center Advisory Board met Wednesday with the PPB (aka city council) to discuss ways to cut expenditures for the center as well as discuss the hiring of a center manager.
Initial discussion centered around the negative publicity the center has been receiving by word of mouth. Some said rumors were once circulating that the center would be closing. This is not true, said members of the PPB.
The center has been under scrutiny since its opening in late 1997. Mayor Shirlee Yassney commented at Wednesday's meeting that she is "totally disgusted" with the former council and mayor who built the center. "They had a steak appetite and a bean pocket book," said Yassney. "But it is here and is is a bright spot for the community."
Yassney said the center was never supposed to be self-sustaining. She said the center is a service to the community and was supposed to be subsidized by the taxpayers. "It's a well-run ship and they do a great job down there. You've got a lot of good employees and I have no problem funding the Carpenter Center. It's good for our community," said Yassney, who did comment she understood the concern surrounding money.
The Russellville City Council set their sights on the center during budget time. They asked Maroney to crunch numbers for the center and get back with them. Some of the ideas the council kicked around included closing the facility an extra day and combining responsibilities to cut payroll.
Maroney and her staff were able to reduce operational hours by 16 and a half without closing an extra day. Maroney was against the idea of shutting down an extra day, believing that would hurt patrons and possibly lose their business. The PPB was satisfied with the cutbacks Maroney and her staff suggested and commended them for doing so.
Maroney pushed for a center manager/supervisor, saying every other city department had one and she felt the center would benefit for one as well. She said she is working as hard as she can but cannot dedicate the time necessary to the center as needed. "We need someone to supervise the staff and to market the center," said Maroney.
Yassney asked Maroney how many employees the center had when it opened in 1997. Maroney said their were 26 employees in its beginning and by the end of the fiscal year there were 33 because of the influx of patrons. Currently the center employs 19.
Yassney, who is in favor of hiring a manager, asked Maroney if she felt the position of a manager would pay for itself by added revenue brought in from marketing. Maroney said she didn't feel the position should be based on that but did feel that the marketing aspects that would derive from having such a position would cover the costs of hiring a manager.
"We want to make this center stay open. It's a positive thing for this community. It's a quality of life issue," said Maroney, who is willing to do what it takes to ensure that happens.
PPB member Chuck Phillips said he agrees that it is a quality of life issue but also sternly believes that they owe the taxpayers and it should be run as efficiently as possible. Phillips said they need to reduce operating costs and increase revenue. He said he couldn't see hiring someone to come in without the increased productivity to cover the expense. He sees it as hiring a supervisor to supervise supervisors.
Paige Dockins, who serves on the center's advisory board, is also a dedicated patron. Dockins addressed the PPB, saying she utilizes the center frequently and loves it. "It's a wonderful place," said Dockins.
Juanita Marshall spoke in favor of the center as well. Marshall also serves on the advisory board and is the Russellville Senior Citizen Center director. Marshall said she has lived in Logan County all of her life and said she understands the division that occurs between the city and county. She said the Carpenter center helps to break down those barriers and provides a central place for all Logan Countians.
PPB member Jack Whipple told Marshall that it was the taxpayers of Russellville who have to foot the bill for the center. Many disagreed with Whipple's statements including Robert Thurston, who made his point by asking where most of the city's taxes come from. Thurston pointed out that the city receives occupational taxes from workers who also live in the county. He said many employees who work for industries within the city live in the county but pay city taxes.
Earl Jones of Auburn said he is a patron of the center and lives in the county. He said he worked for over 30 years in the city of Russellville and paid taxes. He said the Carpenter Center has saved his life. He underwent open heart surgery and became diabetic as a result. He said he was on insulin at first but got off of it through working out and becoming healthier at the center. "We need to stop calling it the Carpenter Center recreational facility and start calling it the Carpenter Health Center," said Jones.
PPB member Mark Stratton said he feels the center needs a marketing approach. Officials need to target the industries and beef up the health aspects of the center to Logan County. "I think we need to look at the marketing area before we look at the manager," said Stratton.
Phillips agreed with Stratton's idea and said he would be for funding a marketing person or firm. PPB member Gene Zick said he thought it would be easy to get marketing firms to come in and give free advise. PPB member Lanny McPherson was a little more skeptical about firms offering anything until the city's pocket book is open.
Maroney said she had a few people in mind who had marketing experience and could serve as a manager as well. Yassney asked Maroney if they would submit resumes. Maroney said yes.
Thurston said he has lived and worked in many other communities which had similar facilities that were a draw to the community. He said that he doesn't think Russellville knows what it has with the Carpenter Center and that it is a good thing. "If you build it they will come," said Thurston, who added, "It's true."
Thurston is associated with K-T Ag, which was hired to make repairs on the center from what the city claims are problems that resulted when the center was built.
Thurston also commented that he feels the recent solution that was agreed upon by the PPB to fix the ridge cap wouldn't work. He said they need to fix the problem right now and feels what has been done won't hold. PPB member McPherson said he disagrees.
The PPB hired Thomas Bouldin to apply a rubber conduit to the roof of the building for thousands less than was anticipated to replace the ridge cap.
Maroney said she didn't want to give a specific date on when the center's pool area would reopen but said it is close. She said the ridge cap is fixed and that now the insulation needs to be put in. She said after that the dectron unit would be next and then the pool should be ready.
The PPB agreed to search for at least three marketing firms which would be willing to look at the center and offer ideas.