Coventry beaches at both Lisicke Beach and Patriots Park originally scheduled to be open weekends starting on Memorial Day will be closed on until June 23rd. The action was taken at the May 2nd meeting of the Coventry Parks and Recreation Commission.
The meeting only lasted one hour and only half the members attended but that was enough time to shut down local beaches. Wendy Rubin, Director of Parks and Recreation called for the action after attending a regional recreation directors meeting citing the fact that Coventry is the only town in the area that opens beaches as early as Memorial Day.
Letting our neighboring towns set local policy was not enough to shut the beaches there was also “supporting evidence” for the action. Ms. Rubin and Caterina Torcasio, Coventry Recreation Supervisor presented additional financial facts to support the proposal. During the corresponding period over the last two years the beaches have lost money on those weekends. In 2010 and 2011 the loss was $1,700 and $3,000 respectively which is accurate but does not tell the whole story.
Not all weekends or weekdays are profitable due to weather and timing, some may show a loss but it is the overall seasonal beach experience that taxpayers and citizens are looking to enjoy. The original budget passed by the taxpayers was predicated on the beaches being open. Money to cover the cost for life guards and the marine patrol services to those parks was included in the budget.
Line 2104 of the Town Budget includes the statement, “The marine officer also assists park staff by patrolling the Town’s park areas”. Did the Parks and Recreation Commission reduce the hours for the officer or will the taxpayers just pay the same amount for less coverage? You know the answer to that one. The money in the budget for life guards was not transferred or altered at the meeting. Where do you suppose that money will go?
The beach services to citizens was never intended as a primary provider of “profit” to the Parks and Recreation Department it was intended to provide a positive recreational experience for citizens. The motion to close the beaches was made by Drew Keleher and seconded by Antonia Conti all members present voted for the motion.
When something like this happens it stirs readers to take a closer look at the actions of the players. In this case Ms. Rubin looked at a small loss for a specific time period and not at the total seasonal experience or the fact that many weekends generate extra money to offset the cost related to the early season expense. According to the minutes of the meeting Ms. Rubin said, “a loss of any magnitude is detrimental”.
This is the same Ms. Rubin that proposed a substantial increase in the last budget proposal asking for an increase on line 110-5201-51010 from $57,948 to $67,068. A real nice salary increase if you can get it but it was reduced by the Town Manager to $60,240 an increase of 3.8%. If the taxpayers use the logic of Ms. Rubin and paraphrase her words when looking at her budget proposal one could easily say, “A salary increase of that amount is detrimental to the taxpayers”.
While Ms. Rubin cites Tolland as an example to follow it does not make it the right choice for Coventry. Tolland also charges student an enormous amount of money to play sports in schools that is their choice but should not be a basis for Coventry to make such a decision.
So in the end the question remains where will the money go that was allocated to have the beaches open now that we will close the beaches, limit recreational opportunities and shorten the summer enjoyment of the citizens and taxpayers? Maybe the Parks and Recreation Commission will make that decision the next time they meet and maybe more than half will show up for the meeting.