Play’s the thing in Chatham

Town asks for help with rec program

CHATHAM–The Town Board assured residents at their workshop meeting Thursday that there will be a recreation program at Crellin Park this summer. Whether or not the Morris Memorial Board will take on part in that program is still being discussed by the members of the two boards.

At the February 4 meeting members of the Morris Board, which runs afterschool and sports programs at the Morris Memorial Building on Park Row in the village, attended the meeting and sat with the Town Board for a discussion of appointing a committee to look at the recreation needs of the town.

Supervisor Maria Lull read a statement at the beginning of the discussion, saying that in December she reached out to the Morris Board “because of the unstable situation” with the current recreation program.

Town Recreation Director Sheri Franks resigned last month. During the November election Ms. Franks, while still a town employee, wrote an opinion piece published in the Chatham Courier urging people not to vote for Ms. Lull, saying that Ms. Lull did not support the recreation program.

Ms. Lull said at the workshop meeting that residents should be assured that the board had no plans to minimize the recreation program, which includes a summer camp, and swimming and tennis lessons at Crellin Park.

“The park is really a jewel to the town,” she said but also said the park needs infrastructure upgrades, pointing out that the tennis and basketball courts are in need of repair and the pavilion at the pond needs to be finished.

In addition to Morris Board members, others joined the discussion, including Chatham school board member Dave O’Connor. Town Councilman John Wapner said that Tom Chulak, president of CABA (Chatham Area Business Alliance), had expressed interest in being part of a recreation committee but he could not attend the meeting last week. Mr. Wapner and Councilwoman Landra Haber will be part of this committee.

There was some discussion of what the town and school district could do together in the future for recreation, but several people brought up the immediate need for a summer program director this year.

“We need to move forward with the parks now,” said Councilman Henry Swartz. Later he was more specific, saying, “We should reach out and get somebody to fill that position.”

Morris Board member Karen Rosen said “The Morris did the summer program at the park for years.” But she said at some point they worked with the town to share the program and eventually the town took over the program. The Morris Board now finds funding for programs at the Morris Memorial and conducts a soccer program at the park.

Dean West, president of Morris Board, referring to the summer recreation program, said, “We can’t afford to risk ourselves financially.”

Ms. Lull asked for representatives from both boards to discuss the possibility of some shared program with the Morris before the next Town Board meeting February 18.

“There will be a rec program this year” no matter what happens with the Morris, Councilman Bob Balcom said at the end of the discussion.

Also at the meeting:

•The board appointed Pat Prendergast town engineer

•Michael Richardson, a labor relations consultant who worked with the Village of Chatham, was hired to help with a new template for the 2017 town budget

•Councilwoman Landra Haber was designated board representative to the county Agricultural Board

•The board created the position of clerk for the building inspector, and also created an accounting clerk position to help the bookkeeper

•A public hearing was scheduled for proposed Local Law #1 of 2016, the renewal of the the moratorium on construction along dirt roads in the town for the February 18 board meeting at 7:05 p.m.

The next town board meeting will be February 18 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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