Published in the March 2, 2016 edition


LYNNFIELD — Under a proposal by the Recreation Commission, the salary of Recreation Director Julie Mallett would increase to $52,000 per year in FY ‘17.

Although this would be an increase of over $7,000 from her current annual salary of $44,880, she would still be the lowest paid recreation director in the region, stated Recreation Commission member Frank DeLisi, who presented the commission’s FY ‘17 budget and goals to the Board of Selectmen last week.

DeLisi explained that the commission’s initial plan was to increase the director’s salary in steps over a three-year period to reach their target goal of $52,000 for this position. They had initially proposed a $2,500 increase for FY ‘17, increasing her salary to $47,380.

However, upon further review of similar towns, they discovered that this salary would be well below the regional average. “What we found after a survey of local communities, $47,000 was by far the lowest,” DeLisi said.

Citing North Reading as an example, DeLisi said Recreation Director Lynne Clemens makes a salary of $54,000. “And she has a staff of four, which basically all four people do the same job that our current Recreation Director does,” he said. “She will still be the lowest paid Recreation Director in the area. Salaries currently range from $60,000 to the high $70,000,” he said.

Selectman Chris Barrett recommended the one-time increase in the salary for Mallett rather than offering it incrementally over three years and risk losing her in consideration of how well she has managed to continually grow the program offerings for residents of all ages. “I don’t want to lose the person we have in the position,” Barrett said, who praised her “can-do” approach in developing new programming.

Mallett is the only town employee in the Recreation Department, DeLisi said. Her position became full-time in July 2015 at the start of the FY ‘16 fiscal year. All other salaries in the department are paid out of Recreation’s revolving account from the fees collected for the programs offered, DeLisi explained.

These positions include Recreation Co-director Joe Maney, who serves as the part-time fields coordinator 19 hours per week, and program directors Michael Wien, Patricia Hazelton and Michelle Robert, all of whom run various programs throughout the year.

The only other town-funded portion of Recreation’s budget for the next fiscal year would be a request for $4,172 to cover the cost of Port-a-Potties at events, advertising and seminar fees. This is an increase of $300 over last year.

Increase in participation

DeLisi gave an overview of the growth of Recreation Department’s offerings in the past year.

Participation in various sports programs increased from 418 to 551 while participation in excursions or trips increased from 294 in 2014 to 1,091 in 2015. Participation at concerts and games remained steady at 3,200 both years while the Summer Recreation Station for the town’s youth saw a modest increase from 390 children in 2014 to 401 in 2015.

Participation also increased in a variety of miscellaneous offerings, ranging from the tree lighting on the town common and gingerbread house contest to the horribles parade on the 4th of July, Father-Daughter Dance, Mother-Son Bowling and movie nights. These activities drew a combined 1,869 participants in 2014 and 2,048 participants in 2015.

Other programs include early release day trips for middle school students, flag football in the summer, fall and spring, learn to skate, running club, ski club, summer golf lessons, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse skills, summer excursions (beach, zip line, rock wall climbing, etc.), elementary and middle school track camp, Tabatha bootcamp and indoor street hockey.

Additional events offered included trips to Red Sox, Bruins and Revolution games, Patriots training camp, Kimball Farms, CoCo Keys, Lion King show, concerts on the square at MarketStreet and concerts on the common games.

Goals for 2016

In the current year, the Recreation Department has set a goal of increasing participation by 20 percent overall through offering additional programming and improving existing programming, such as implementing phase two of the tree lighting improvement plan.

Among the plans for 2016 would be introducing a community event that would attract at least 1,000 attendees such as a family concert event. Topping the list for Mallett is bringing Lynnfield Countryfest to town that would feature several bands.

Recreation is also working on developing its field usage policies and fee structures due to the LHS fields complex coming online and the ongoing improvements being made to the sod fields at the town’s other recreational fields and playgrounds. In conjunction with this effort, DeLisi said Recreation is also finalizing its field maintenance plan with the DPW.

Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford said he would love to see Recreation meet its goal of having the field usage plan finalized by the end of March. “It would be great to have that in place so we can know what is expected of everybody,” Crawford said, “And who’s going to take care of all these fields and improvements that we’ve done and what, if any, we will have to contract out, in addition to the DPW. It is going to be a big task for the DPW to see what they can get done. Once we nail that down, we can see what we can do for our contract side.”

Lastly, Recreation is engaged with the Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) to “develop a Rec Center vision” to better serve the town’s children, DeLisi said.

To accomplish these goals, Recreation plans to work together with other community organizations and departments to support and enhance existing programs and create new programs, such as those that would attract participation by adults.

In addition to Lynnfield Countryfest, Mallett said she is trying to organize a corn hole tournament for adults, possibly at the Wakefield- Lynnfield Lodge of Elks.

For the field operations and maintenance guidelines to work will require cooperation with the DPW, schools, town manager, Board of Selectmen and youth sports leagues, DeLisi stated. In addition to DeLisi, the seven-member Lynnfield Recreation Commission board includes Chairman Matt Monkiewicz, Treasurer Frank Morelli and members Rod Boone, Bob Relihan, Terri Farrell and Rich Sjoberg.

Rec Center proposal

Selectman Tom Terranova was intrigued by the Recreation Commission’s goal of finding a suitable location for a town Recreation Center as this was a goal of his when he had served on the commission, he said.

Terranova suggested that the perfect location for it would be Reedy Meadow, especially given the current proposal for building a new library on that site and in view of the fact that the town will have another 9-hole golf course available at King Rail.

“That would be a great spot for a recreation facility,” Terranova said of Reedy Meadow. “Maybe that back golf course space could be converted to green space. We could put a nice walking path in over to Reedy Meadow,” where the birds and other wildlife could be observed. “It would be a great place for kids to play and adults to go and give all the fields a chance to rest, as we continually use and abuse all of our grass fields, it would be nice to give them a break,” he said.

Referencing the survey conducted by the Fields Committee that stated the No. 1 request of the respondents was the creation of walking trails in town, Terranova added, “We could put a walking trail back there and you wouldn’t have the issue of the rail to trail and all the people who don’t want people walking through their backyards. This could put people out in a very pretty area and they could enjoy the kids playing. You could sit inside the library and watch the kids have fun.”

Mallett said she would love to have a recreation center in a central location such as this.

Town Administrator Jim Boudreau quipped about Terranova’s proposal: “There is a very nice walking path at the golf course; you just have to carry a golf bag!”

Terranova praised Recreation for doing a “great job” overall.

Concerns over CORI, rubber pellets

In response to a question posed by resident Pat Campbell about whether Recreation’s excursion trips are covered by town insurance, Mallett said they are and explained that each venue has “its own waivers that the parents have to sign” in order for their children to participate in activities such as zip-lining.

Campbell said she continues to be concerned over the rubberized pellets on the turf fields getting into the wetlands and their effect on children. She recalled a parent had told the selectmen at a past meeting that his child had gotten rubber pellets in his nose and ears when he came off the playing field. Citing national groups that are studying the use of these pellets, including the EPA, she said, “it’s a concern of mine.” She asked if Recreation was keeping an eye on it.

DeLisi said that would be a better question to ask of the DPW than the Recreation Commission. Crawford said the only turf fields in town remain under the jurisdiction of the School Department. He urged anyone using the fields to brush off the pellets as best they can before they leave the fields.

“We’ve had to use very little of the additional pellet mix that we currently have,” he said. “We all know when you play on it, it’s stuck on you; it’s in your shoes, stuck on your calves, on your elbows. It does come home with you. There have been no studies brought forward to us that contradict the original studies that we had when we got the fields put in,” Crawford said.

Terranova suggested that Campbell bring her concern to the health agent.

Mallett assured Campbell that background checks are done on recreation staff who have direct contact with children. “Most of the staff are school teachers and the rest are high school seniors” who receive CORI checks, she  said, adding Rec. Commission members don’t run programs or have contact with children so they are not subjected to background checks. “They oversee me,” Mallett said.

Over-scheduling solution

Resident Steve Connelly said there are currently so many offerings by Recreation and other town groups that it has become a challenge to schedule them all into his children’s schedules.

“Whenever I see an activity, the first thing I do is check ‘what is my kid doing and is there a conflict?’ I’d love to see a town calendar, especially around activities integrated with some of the youth sports,” Connelly said, given that children participate in more than one sport in a season. He suggested coordinating with other youth programs.

“If there is a solution, I am more than willing to plug anything in,” Mallett said, admitting that her family has the same problem because even her own three children cannot participate in all of the recreational programs that they would like to do.

Connelly also suggested that more programming for adults would  be welcomed by many. Mallett said she is trying to arrange more trips for adults and would be willing to work with anyone who came to her with other ideas that interested them.

“If you want do to something, come to me and if we can do it, we’ll do it,” Mallett said.