by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The Sanibel Recreation Center may be fully operational this fall, after being closed at the start of the pandemic last year and now operating with limited offerings.
Sanibel City Council took the first step Tuesday, April 6 by unanimously approving city staff to prepare a plan for a complete reopening in October or November. That plan will include a cost analysis and a communications plan. Council will review it in the May meeting.
City Manager Judie Zimomra said the city is operating within a budget that was adopted in October 2020, when a COVID vaccine was not on the horizon. She reported the recreation department fund has $35,675 remaining for the fiscal year and the general fund contingency has $109,450 remaining.
Council took another step Tuesday by unanimously approving the hiring of an aquatics manager at a cost of $30,000 for the remainder of the year to be paid from the department fund. Zimomra said aquatics was a key program and there was a candidate for the position, but it was not budgeted.
Vice Mayor Richard Johnson said an aquatics manager was a critical position to get the highly-attended program running again.
There were calls from some citizens in the meeting’s audience to find ways to increase the Recreation Center’s membership and to “build back better” after the toll of the pandemic. Part of the communication plan is a survey. Council had previously proposed surveying past and present members.
Councilman John Henshaw said surveys can create expectations and too many can loose effectiveness. He added the survey should focus on the future, especially with the vaccine making it a fluid situation, and be sent closer to the fall. Henshaw also suggested using educational pieces on the COVID protocols in place instead of a survey.
Council members were in further agreement on continuing the current schedule of hours throughout the summer. The Recreation Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays.
Additionally, the ball fields remain open and Center 4 Life, a recreation department facility, remains closed at this time.