Despite the initial scare that local recreation, youth and community activities could be halted for the rest of the winter season, there is hope something will be worked out.
Members of local youth athletic organizations thought that all indoor winter activities on the recreation and community level would end as of Dec. 21 as a result of Tuesday's order from the county Board of Education to eliminate overtime for school custodians.
But that's not so, and everyone involved in youth sports has got to think positively. Hopefully, some sort of a compromise can be reached.
The custodians open and close the county schools and are on duty for security and cleanup on evenings and weekends. Faced with an $8 million budget deficit, county administrators moved to cut the overtime on those jobs and save money.
Because of the Persian Gulf crisis, the county is facing a $1.6 million energy deficit and measures have to be taken to counteract the projected loss. After a meeting with County Executive Robert Neall, School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton was charged with solving the schools' problems with the board's own resources.
Not wanting to tinker with instruction and the high school athletic program, Lorton looked elsewhere to find some of the $8 million deficit.
Cutting custodial overtime offers a potential savings of $600,000 for the rest of the year.
Schools will be open for after-school activities in the evenings during the week with a custodian on hand, but not on weekends.
Ron Beckett, assistant to the superintendent in charge of school services, said, "The groups will supervise their own activities and the buildings will be open Monday through Friday evenings, but not on weekends.
"Custodians will be there, but not as many of them."
The weekends are where the serious problems exist for youth sports teams and leagues because that's when most games are played. And at the moment, there is a lot of confusion over what's actually going to happen.
Activities in jeopardy include basketball, wrestling, cheerleaders, majorettes, men's and women's community leagues in various sports, gymnastics, indoor soccer, drop-in programs, community association meetings, boy and girl Scouts and even teen centers. All those activities that involve a substantial number of participants are dependent upon the schools, and the schools can't open after hours without a custodian in charge.
"We were told last night (Wednesday) that the Teen Center we hold on Friday nights at Corcoran Junior High was canceled immediately, but today they told us we have until Dec. 21 just like the other activities," said John Stumpf, president of the Anne Arundel Gridiron Club Rebels.
"They're throwing our kids out on the street, and they think they're saving money, but if they do this, they will have to raise the police budget in about a year to control the kids on the streets. Our parents are in total shock."
But with the schools open on Friday nights, the Teen Center may not have to be canceled after all.
The Rebels' parents conducted a special board meeting last night at Point Pleasant, and Stumpf said they planned to draft a petition to stop this proposal.
But the shock was not only felt by the youth and recreation organizations, but by those in county Rec and Parks as well. A reliable source at Rec and Parks said they didn't have a clue anything like this was in the works.
"We were not informed until we saw the memo that went out to the school principals," said the source. "It was obviously a breakdown in communications."
The memo gives the individual high school principals some latitude, but maybe not enough for Rec and Parks leagues and the individual youth organizations that have intramural programs. What's the sense of practicing during the week when you can't play games on Saturdays or Sundays?
"We are planning our winter schedules and expect to send them out soon unless told otherwise," said Jeff Porter, Rec and Parks basketball supervisor, who was fielding a slew of phone calls yesterday.
"At this point, we're just waiting to see what's going to happen."
Rec and Parks director Joe McCann has asked for a meeting with Lorton and County Executive Robert R. Neall, and at this point is optimistic. The Rec and Parks director hopes to resolve the problem before Monday's special board meeting to discuss other budget cuts Lorton has in mind.
An alternative the youth groups have is to pay the custodian fees on weekends. County fiscal officer Bill Peacock said that would average $30.75 per hour for non-profit groups based on rates effective Oct. 1, 1989.
"There would also be an hourly rate for the room or gym to be used," said Peacock. "Those rates are based on 1,000 square feet from $1.70 an hour all the way to a full gym at $23.80 an hour."
Most gyms average 14,000 square feet.
Commercial or church groups would pay about $4.20 an hour, which would figure out to a total of $58.80.