Canton forming group to review rec department

A skater talks with her parents through the glass at the Canton Recreation Pavilion during a public skate at the facility in 2017. Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — Town and village officials are beginning a community-led review of Canton’s recreation department, anticipating a reimagining of the joint program’s structure and function.

A comprehensive evaluation was put on hold after Recreation Director Jimmi L. Putman resigned in September and municipal officials worked to develop a limited reopening plan for the ice rink at the Canton Recreation Pavilion.

Now that the pavilion reopening is underway with COVID-19 protocols in place, the recreation committee has put out a call for community members to serve on a working group that will hold regular, virtual meetings this winter.

The recreation committee, comprised of town council members Timothy J. Danehy and Karin S. Blackburn and village trustees Carol S. Pynchon and Elizbeth R. Larrabee, hopes to form the working group by Nov. 23 and host an initial meeting in early December. A Google Form is posted to the municipal website, and those interested in participating are asked to complete the form by Nov. 20.

In the absence of a recreation director, interim village Superintendent of Public Works Marty Miller is overseeing Pavilion facilities and activities with recreation staff.

Rather than immediately hiring a new director, Ms. Pynchon said during a joint town and village meeting Monday night, the recreation committee wants to know what “the recreation-loving public” wants in a municipal program. The working group will be asked to consider staffing, facilities, programming, resources and taxpayer return on investment, ideally before spring, when the village will begin budgeting for its 2021-22 fiscal year starting June 1.

The town, which is expected to pass its 2021 budget during a regular meeting this week, has earmarked $115,900 for recreation costs, including the pavilion floor, and kept $32,201 in a contingency fund should it be needed for recreation next year.

Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley said she hopes the working group will represent all of Canton — including the hamlets of Morley and Pyrites and the village of Rensselaer Falls. Similarly, Ms. Blackburn said community involvement “will add value to the discussion” and expand the recreation committee’s understanding of local need.

Hearing from a few stakeholders already this year about the future of Canton recreation, Mr. Danehy urged continued input for the benefit of the entire program.

“This is the time for those individuals to come forward, step up and participate,” he said. “Everything’s on the table.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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