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Palm Coast Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 6 years ago

Belle Terre Swim & Racquet dominates Flagler County School Board meeting

Board also discusses Step Up and Community Inclusion programs.
by: Jacque Estes Community Editor

Halfway through the Flagler County School Board workshop on Tuesday, Aug. 18; citizens, focused on the fate of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, began to arrive and take their seats in the board room at the Government Services Building.

The board unanimously agreed to advertise a formal RFP, Request for Proposal, to assume operations of the club.

“Nobody wants to see anyone hurt. We want to make it work,” said Superintendent Jacob Oliva. “We cannot be tasked with operating the pool, and we are willing to sit down with anyone who wants to run the pool.”

Once again it was explained that state statute dictates that money from property and sales taxes can only be used for school programs, not recreational needs, such as the pool.

“The swim club is enterprise money and revenue from that program,” Oliva said. “We do not get enough revenue.”

Oliva also stated that he had met with all of the city managers and county administration to discuss the issue, and all agreed the school district shouldn't be running the pool.

“From day one it's never been self-sustaining,” he said.

In previous years, community education classes at the complex helped to offset some of the expense, but a decrease in participation in the programs has resulted in decreased revenue.

The RFP will be advertised for 30 days, to Sept. 19. If proposals are received the board may call a special meeting in order to review the proposals and take the next step.

Accommodation for practice times for the school swim teams will be part of any accepted RFP.

Annual memberships expire Sept. 7, and a motion was made and failed to pass suggesting the pool be closed to memberships until a solution was found. It was recommended that memberships will be on a monthly basis until a solution is finalized.

Step Up and Community Inclusion programs for adult with disabilities continue to struggle

FTI director, Kevin McCarthy, updated the board on the status of the Step Up and Community Inclusion programs for Flagler County adults with disabilities.

Since losing all state funding on July 1, McCarthy and his staff, with the help of Sen. Travis Hutson, Rep. Paul Renner and the school board, have searched for ways to keep the program active.

“It's a horrible, horrible, report I have to make tonight,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said most of the 40 programs that were active in the state have been closed, something Flagler County, one of the largest programs in the state, doesn't want to do.

McCarthy's concern is for the families who rely on the program to provide a quality environment for their disabled adult children, so they can go to work. Without the program, McCarthy said many may have to leave their jobs to stay at home to provide care.

“There is not another option in this county,” he said.

While there are ideas on how to replace the funds next year, the immediate challenge is trying to get through the next few months.

“This really hit folks by surprise, even our legislators,” board chair, Colleen Conklin said. “They thought the funding was going to make it through the governor’s veto process. Other school boards like us are trying to keep this together, multiple programs out of the 40 have ceased.”

Board members weren't shy about putting the blame firmly on the doorstep of the state capitol.

“Leadership took it off the table in a conscious decision without researching what the consequences would be,” said school board member Janet MacDonald.

“I think the state has a responsibility to come up with some emergency funding,” Conklin said.


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