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Bay Oaks is a needed commodity

October 21, 2015
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

The recent budget cut of nearly 20 percent to the Bay Oaks Recreation Center budget by the Town of Fort Myers Beach is, to say the least, extreme, not to mention counterproductive. The Town Manager and Town Council have tasked the staff at Bay Oaks to increase revenue-generating activities while cutting resources, including capital improvements (that means, no new gym floor or fitness trail, both projects far along in the planning stages) and staffing (no new hires and no overtime.) Is there or isn't there a commitment to this facility?

The Bay Oaks Rec Center, like most community rec centers, will never turn a profit or even break even. The business model does not apply here. Do we have to go through the process of justifying the existence of Bay Oaks as a vital part of our community again and again and again as each new Town Council and Town Manager assume leadership of the Town?

The staff at Bay Oaks have already been at work to organize revenue-generating events and activities, but what effect does the recent budget cut have on staff morale? And where is the extra staff time needed to carry out the undertaking mandated by the Town Manager and Town Council? Is the budget cut only the first step in eliminating Town ownership of Bay Oaks completely? Imagine that Bay Oaks Rec Center no longer exists. (Actually, when Lee County divested itself of Bay Oaks in 2009, the Town had to either find operating funds for Bay Oaks or shutter the facility completely. Coincidentally, Don Stilwell was still Lee County Manager when the Town was given this ultimatum.)

Without Bay Oaks, there would be no baseball fields for Little League and other team competitions; no tennis courts; no swimming pool for water aerobics, swim lessons, a summer practice place for swim teams; no gymnasium for after-school programs, summer camp for kids, pickle ball for Seniors, basketball, fitness classes; no weight room for strength training; no community activities, like Fright Night for Halloween, a Christmas party with Santa Claus, Thanksgiving dinner for Seniors, the Fourth of July parade -the list goes on and on- and starting in November, a Farmers' Market on the Bay Oaks campus.

The budget cut may be a dangerous first step to the ultimate conclusion -the dismantling of Bay Oaks. Randy Norton and his dedicated staff already do a lot with a little at Bay Oaks -don't hamstring them further by cutting off funds. Restore the budget-cut funds to Bay Oaks to prove that the Town's commitment to Bay Oaks Rec Center is solid and enduring.

Becky Bodnar

Fort Myers Beach



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