HomeCity NewsCity Council Approves Strategic Plan Process For Recreation Dept.

City Council Approves Strategic Plan Process For Recreation Dept.

The San Marino’s City Council passed a motion last Wednesday evening to start the creation of a strategic plan process for the Recreation Department and to look at how much it would cost to enable Stoneman to run a licensed preschool program. Several community members were present to voice their support for the programs while others pointed out concerns of liability and cost.

The Council passed the motion 4-1, with Council member Gretchen Shepherd Romey being the single “no” vote after hearing a detailed report on recommendations as to how the Recreation Department could evolve and become economically feasible. The report from the Blue-Ribbon Committee appointed earlier this year by the Council, was ananalysis of the current state of affairs with in the department and made recommendations to rein in expenditures and enable programs to continue into the future.

Four of the five community members on the Blue-Ribbon Committee were present to detail the report to the Council: John Chou, Jennifer Kurumada Chuang, Liz Hollingsworth and Brady Onishi. Anna-Marie Grizzel was absent from the meeting. The Committee is co-chaired by Mayor Steve Talt and Councilmember Ken Ude.

San Marino resident Michelle Yoshimi-Motschenbacher, attending her first-ever Council meeting, was impassioned in her support of the programs. She shared that her children, ages 7 and 10, had participated in the programs since kindergarten and it was a strong reason they lived in the area. A self-described working mom, she said she’d be disappointed if the programs went away and also praised the Stoneman staff for their quality of work.

“The staff is wonderful,” said Yoshimi-Motschenbacher. “I got to know everyone. I know that going there, my kids will be safe there. I really hope that part of the budget does go to supporting them.”

Blue-Ribbon Committee member Chou outlined to the Council the Committee’s suggestion for a five year strategic plan, which would serve as a map for what the Rec Department should do, how to do it and how to involve the Council. He also said the Committee suggested for the department to join forces with the library, San Marino Unified School District and Blue-Ribbon Committee members to create the plan.

“This is not something we’re saying the Recreation Department needs to do on its own,” said Chou. “This is something they can do collaboratively with other members within the community.” said Chou.

Rosa Pinuelas, manager of the Recreation Department, told The Tribune that it was a pleasure to work with the Blue-Ribbon Committee’s programming sub-committee and Hollingsworth as they gathered information for their report. She shared that the department is working to continue running the programs until additional direction is provided.

“We’re making sure that we run programs that are at a high-quality level and keep going until they set the policy and we’re ready to go in a new direction,” said Pinuelas.

Leading up to her “no” vote on the motion, Shepherd Romey expressed several concerns, including the current fire safety issues at Stoneman and the effectiveness of marketing current programs offered by the Recreation Department, which she said has not been successful in increasing the number of people participating. She also pressed for more answers before additional city revenue is spent, other than for safety compliance, on the department and school.

“So Stoneman still seems to be a major issue that then feeds all of this,” said Shepherd Romey. “And also, we need to focus on what programming does the city want to see, do the residents want to see continue with this reformulated Rec Department.”

Ude supported the creation of a strategic plan for the department and Stoneman which he noted that the gave strong recommended guidelines for in their presented report. He shared that a solid plan is built with various scenarios, breakeven points, and forecasts revenue and participation.

“We have some financial guidelines here,” said Ude. “One percent of revenue, a quarter of a million dollars, is the starting point. If a good plan comes back maybe we justify more, we justify less, but I think we can’t answer the Rec Department, preschool, and all that good stuff until we have data around Stoneman as well. Until we have those two things together, we’re just wasting airtime.”

Blue-Ribbon Committee member Onishi also stepped forward to remind the Council that in the time the preschool at Stoneman has been in operation, it has been contributing and reducing the overall cost of the other programs.

“So if you’re talking about eliminating the preschool, please appreciate the fact that actually is going to cause the cost to go up,” said Onishi.

Vice Mayor Steven Huang said he saw a need for the city to upgrade the department, as it provides a place for student activities and a location to be after school.

“We do need this program and hopefully we can bring it up to par, so all the parents would be happy and all the residents wouldn’t complain,” said Huang.

The Council directed City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe to begin work on the strategic plan and cost assessment for Stoneman being able to run a licensed preschool. A preliminary plan outline is expected to be presented at the Council’s next meeting on Friday, October 26 at 8:00 a.m. in the Barth Community Room of the Crowell Public Library.

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