SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 6, 2013

Push on to restore full-time Ipswich rec director

New Ipswich town manager seeks increase in 10-hour a week job

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — A year and a half after the recreation director’s job was cut to 10 hours a week, causing some controversy in town, the new town manager wants to restore it to a full-time position.

Town Manager Robin Crosbie is proposing to increase the hours of the recreation director back to full time and add new responsibilities for cultural programming.

The recreation director’s job was cut to part time by former Town Manager Bob Markel, who restructured the program two summers ago to coordinate programs with the public schools and the YMCA.

Recreation Director Kerrie Bates, whose new title would be director of recreation and culture, would make $52,709 under the proposal — a $37,000 increase to the department’s budget. Some of the increase will be funded by grants and other revenue sources.

Bates was hired to replace longtime Recreation Director Betty Dorman, who resigned in July 2011 after being put on leave because she had failed to perform required criminal background checks on people working in her department.

Along with continuing to coordinate programs with other organizations, Bates would coordinate townwide events and work with downtown businesses and organizations to develop cultural and recreational programs.

One goal of the revamped position is to draw residents and visitors downtown to enhance the profile of downtown, Crosbie said.

“It is really to have someone working with youth and sports associations as well as organizations within the community to coordinate those efforts,” Crosbie said.

Part of Bates’ new responsibilities would be to seek outside financial support for community programming through sponsorships, Crosbie said.

“This person will have a relationship with civic groups and the YMCA in making sure that there is a spectrum of choices for people out there,” Crosbie said, in part to make sure there are not competing events.

Crosbie explained her proposal Monday night during a presentation on her proposed $15.5 million operating budget for the town. That figure does not include school costs, proposed for $24.9 million.

Monday night, selectmen supported the plan to increase Bates’ hours.

Selectman Shirley Berry, who did not support downsizing of the department two years ago, said she liked the idea of adding cultural programming to the job description.

“I am glad to see the hours increasing because I do know this is one instance — and there are several in town — where the director is putting in far more hours than being paid,” she said. “She has done a great job.”

Selectman Bill Craft said he has received many calls about recreation from residents and would like updates on how the position is working out.

Crosbie is also seeking applicants for the Recreation Commission that would support the new director position. Interested residents can send applications to Crosbie’s office at Town Hall, 25 Green St.

There is also a proposal to increase the Council on Aging director’s post from 20 hours to 28 hours. The increase in the department’s budget will be only $1,500, she said, in part because the assistant director will be funded by grants.

“Because of the center being open 35 hours a week, there needs to be some continuity,” she said. “You don’t generally have a director that’s part time. These are ongoing services five days a week, and there needs to be a level of responsibility and accountability.”

There was a debate over adding a 15-hour-per-week administrative assistant in Crosbie’s office for $16,500.

Several selectmen argued that they were told Jennifer Breaker, special assistant and human resources director, could handle the workload.

Crosbie said her priorities have changed and this will allow Breaker to focus on more pressing human resources matters.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.