Youth and Rec receives 36 requests for funding

ALPENA – The Alpena County Youth and Recreation Committee received 36 funding requests for projects that would improve recreational facilities in the county, as well as help cover program costs. Other than a pair of proposals from Plaza Pool, however, the committee will not review the others until after the Aug. 5 election, when voters will decide if the half-mill, youth and recreation millage is renewed.

Committee Chairman Tony Suszek said the 36 proposals totaled more than $700,000, but if the millage passes, a little over $400,000 will be available to distribute. He said there has been a lot accomplished with the money from the initial millage and the new batch of projects has a lot to offer too. He said over the last five years more groups and organizations are requesting money.

“They seem like viable projects and we are seeing new groups submitting proposals,” Suszek said. “We still are getting requests from the school, the pool, the parks as well, but there are some new entities requesting money. One that did catch my eye was a proposal for new lights at Wildcat Stadium for $175,000.”

Suszek said the committee will not meet again until the results of the election are known and then it will move quickly to see presentations for each proposal and decide which how the money will be allotted in time for the 2015 distribution.

“Everything is contingent on the millage passing and we aren’t going to do anything else until we see how that plays out,” Suszek said. “I’m always excited and amazed what these groups do and want to do. We won’t be able to fund them all, but there are always a lot of great proposals.”

The future of Plaza Pool could hinge on the millage passing. Suszek said there have been significant improvements made in the utility systems at the pool, the cost of operating it is high. He said right now the pool is dependent on millage allocations to keep its doors open.

“The pool is a large asset to Alpena and has been for many years and the county has done a lot to improve its efficiency. The pool itself is in good shape and should remain that way for years to come and the operators are doing a good job,” Suszek said. “Without the millage funds though the prices would have to be increased to the point no one would use it, or they would have to close down. The bottom line is if it doesn’t pass, it will close. It may be a year or so, but it will close and that is sad.”

Norm Sommerfeld, owner of Synchronizations Management, said the pool staff is doing everything possible to keep costs low, while still offering customers the service they expect. He said the pool is not yet self-sustaining and it will be tough to have a pool open for long if the millage dries up.

“From an operational standpoint the youth and rec money helped us out with about 25 percent of what is needed to run the facility,” Sommerfeld said. “We have a little bit of fund balance left so I would anticipate the pool would continue to run for somewhere between a year or two. Then either the prices would go up. If they went up as much as they would have to to make up the difference, people just wouldn’t able to afford it. My guess is it would have to close.”

Sommerfeld said the pool is not the only entity that may have to discontinue operations in Alpena. He said 4-H is in a similar position and services could be discontinued if help form the millage is lost.

Suszek said all the committee can do is wait to see if any money will be available to move forward with the projects for 2015.

“Right now everything the committee does hinges on what the voters decide,” Suszek said. “All we can do now is wait and if it passes move ahead with the proposals and distribute the funds. If it doesn’t then we won’t have the funds to do any of them.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.