City of East Ridge wants more recreation oversight

City of East Ridge wants more recreation oversight

January 24th, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Joseph Long, 15, a member of the East Ridge High School cross country team, warms up at Camp Jordan in this file photo.

Photo by Chad McClure

IF YOU GO

• What: Meeting to discuss East Ridge's recreation program

• When: Today, 5:30 p.m.

• Where: East Ridge City Hall, 1517 Tombras Ave.

The East Ridge City Council is holding a special called meeting tonight to discuss the possibility of starting a Parks and Recreation Department to hold more direct oversight of the sports leagues at the city's Camp Jordan complex.

"It's been on the radar screen for some time," City Manager Tim Gobble said. "The costs for keeping up these fields are enormous. We don't expect to break even, but we ought to be getting closer to even than we are."

Camp Jordan is home to the East Ridge Soccer Association, the East Ridge Girls Softball Association and East Ridge Baseball.

The leagues draw players from across the region and operate independently of the city, though the city pays for field maintenance, lighting and other amenities, Gobble said.

Of the city's $1.3 million budgeted for Camp Jordan, about $800,000 of that is directed to the recreation program, Gobble said.

Of the $65 to $100 per-person joining fees for the leagues, the city gets $5. That brings in $35,000 to $45,000 per year, along with the $65,000 the association pays to rent the arena for three months.

Mac Helms, president of the East Ridge Soccer Association, does not agree with the breakdown of costs, saying that the leagues pay for goals, equipment and some maintenance.

"We don't waste money," he said. "We've built one of the top three programs in the state. I'm tired of the association being accused of doing things wrong."

He said the association runs its programs at a "break-even" point, and depends on tournaments to pay for additional equipment.

In 2010, the soccer association generated $310,000 in revenue, along with unknown totals in parking and concession revenue, according to Gobble.

"The city should be getting more of that," Gobble said. "I know that soccer and the leagues have expenses, but there's no accountability from the standpoint of the taxpayers -- who are bearing the significant burden of providing these programs."

Gobble said he is not accusing the leagues of misappropriating funds, but he is worried about the minimal oversight the city has of the leagues' accounting.

Financial statements from the leagues are often missing information, and show "sporadic accounting," he said.

Helms said his association has never withheld financial information the city has requested.

"We run a great program and we've never had problems before," Helms said.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.