2016-02-19 / Community

Changes to town’s recreation dept.

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The recreation department is seeking to fill a second key position even as selectmen have decided to go ahead and advertise for the top job.

According to Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, he engaged his peers in Arundel and Kennebunkport on the possibility of sharing a recreation director. However, neither was game for the idea, he said.

“I’ve met with the two town managers and neither one of them wants to merge departments,” he said. “They’d rather share some programs and see how that goes.”

That brought a rebuke from Selectman Ed Karytko at the board’s Feb. 9 meeting. The managers may run the towns, he said, but it’s selectmen who give the marching orders.

“My understanding is that the different managers have had conversations with their selectmen,” Tibbetts said.

“Well, I had a conversation with one last night and she had absolutely no idea any of this was going on. To me that’s a problem,” Karytko shot back.

At the board’s Jan. 26 session, Chairman Kevin Donovan announced Kennebunk’s longtime recreation director, Brian Costello, will retire April 22, following 30 years on the job.

Costello began in March 1986 as a program assistant and parks maintenance leader, rising to the director’s role in June of that year.

Under Costello’s tenure, the number of recreation programs in Kennebunk grew from just 45, with revenues of $26,000, to more than 500 this past year, which generated more than $700,000 in revenues.

“Brian built a highly professional recreation department that has adapted to the changing needs of the community,” Donovan said. “He has been instrumental in growing the department’s programs to serve the diverse needs of the community and also led numerous improvements at many of the town’s facilities.”

Then, at the Feb. 11 selectmen’s meeting, board chairman Kevin Donovan announced that Program Coordinator Matthew Duplisea, who supervises the town’s teen center, also had submitted his resignation, effective Feb. 19, having accepted the position of youth and family program coordinator for the Biddeford Recreation Department.

“Matt has been an integral part of the expansion of teen center activities and his input has been an important part of the growth of the programs offered by the department in his nine years of employment,” Donovan said. “We wish him the very best in his new position.”

Selectmen did not address Duplisea’s job at their Feb. 11 meeting, but did question if Costello should be replaced.

“I would be included on holding the line on replacing him,” Selectman Richard Morin said. “We have all of the programs in place. I have not heard anybody say we have an incapable staff.”

However, Tibbetts said Costello is not merely an administrator. He actually runs many of the recreation programs himself, meaning someone has to tag in when he steps out.

“We can’t ask someone to do 200 percent of two jobs,” Tibbetts said. “I just don’t think that can functionally work.”

“But should we pay someone $70,000 to do that when we could pay $15 an hour,” Selectman Christopher Cluff asked.

“I think we should fill the position, rather than taking someone out and expecting the others there to pick up the slack,” Selectman Daniel Boothby said.

“But if we fill a $70,000 position, and then in two or three years we decide we do want to merge departments, we’ll have a really hard time getting rid of that person,” Cluff said.

“But we’re not even closer to talking about that,” Selectman Shiloh Schulte said.

“I’m trying to not add another person to the payroll,” said Karytko, noting that while the rec department programs pay for themselves through user fees, when factoring in bus transportation and other costs, the program runs a $240,000 deficit.

“This is not a new position in the budget,” Schulte said.

“But we have not done an assessment of what is really needed,” Morin said. “I support the program. I think it serves an enormous number of people, but I think there may by different ways of doing it.”

“It’s a successful program that runs well,” Donovan said. “I don’t see the need to change anything.”

Selectmen voted 4-3 to advertise for Costello’s job, in hopes of filling it as soon as possible. Cluff, Karytko and Morin voted against the motion.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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