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Detroit Lakes Community Education Director Mark Greenig at his desk in the Lincoln Education Center.

Big changes ahead for community ed?

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There are some big changes on the horizon for Detroit Lakes Community Education and Recreation.

"This is the biggest change in my 34 years. I didn't think it would washout like this," Director Mark Greenig said.

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Due to potential cuts in local government aid and the April 1 retirement of Greenig, the community education and recreation program is changing.

There are two sides to the community education and recreation coin. The recreation portion is funded through the city of Detroit Lakes. The community education portion is funded through the Detroit Lakes Public Schools.

If cuts go through and it is willing to accept responsibility, the recreation portion, and possibly the community education portion as well, will be run through the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

"The city is looking to contract with the DLCCC for the summer rec and baseball program," Greenig said. "We will have summer baseball and summer rec program."

Although the reorganization has only been in talks for a week or two, rumors are swelling that community education and recreation are going to be cut all together. That's a falsehood, DLCCC CEO Stu Omberg assured. There will be changes, but the programs are not gone.

He said the DLCCC is possibly getting involved to "enhance, not pare down" the recreation program.

If the DLCCC doesn't take on the challenge, the city and school district will have to hire someone to lead the programs. "This is a perfect storm" to do something different, Greenig said. What those changes are, though, no one is certain yet.

The Holmes Inc. board (which oversees the DLCCC) meets Feb. 26, and no decisions will likely happen until then, but things are looking in favor of the DLCCC at least taking on the recreation portion.

"This will truly make the Holmes Center a focal point of the community," Greenig said. "If the DLCCC can make it profitable, they'll look into it seriously.

"This could really be a plus for the community center."

City's recreational share

Omberg said when the DLCCC was approached about combining synergies, it wasn't about the DLCCC taking over and making changes.

"It was what could we do to maintain the quality they already had," he said, speaking highly of what Greenig has done for the program over the last 34 years. "Is it broke? Not by any means.

"The rec side sounds like what we do already," he continued. "We still have to sit down and discuss the community ed side."

Although all questions aren't answered, Omberg said he hopes to have most answered by April.

The DLCCC board will be meeting with school representatives, which is more in the preliminary stages of discussion, to see what can be done about the community education aspect.

Relatively quick action is needed because summer planning is already under way. The community education catalog already has sign-up sheets for summer baseball, swimming lessons, driver's training --programs people will need direction on if they are no longer with community education.

As a cost-saving move, the city would stand to save about $58,300 if all parties agree to the DLCCC taking over operations.

The city would still fund the summer recreation programs through the DLCCC, but "yes, the city is going to save money," Omberg said. "They're looking to maintain the programs (despite) the LGA cuts."

"The city has a contract with the school to pay 25 percent of the community education director's salary and benefits," City Finance Officer Lou Guzek said.

In 2009, the city budgeted $24,000 for that 25 percent. The city budgeted $103,300 for the entire summer rec program, which includes that 25 percent of Greenig's salary, summer staff and lifeguards.

For a contract with the DLCCC, the city is offering to fund $45,000 per year for three years.

"City staff sees this as a win-win situation for the city and the community center," Guzek said. "But, it is kind of sad cutting off the rec part the city has always done."

A sure cut

Regardless of the future of where community education will reside, there will be cuts there as well. One of the biggest will be no summer lifeguards on the beach. That also means no rafts, no slide, no log and likely no docks.

"They've been cultural icons for this city," Greenig said of the beaches. "The beach thing is significant -- that's our calling card."

That would also be the end of swimming lessons though the summer rec program. At its peak, the community education program hosted 900 swimmers per summer for lessons. Last year, there were 350.

Now, swimming lessons would be through the DLCCC.

Other things for the DLCCC to consider, Greenig said, is the pool being tied up for this many hours for swimming lessons, how will it be for those with memberships wanting to use it? Those questions and more are what the board will have to discuss when it meets later this month.

Greenig said the school district has a requirement that students must take a swim class in order to graduate. Whether that stays part of the curriculum is a question for the school, but it isn't necessarily the city's problem.

"There's a multitude of things the city will have to look at."

And more than likely, the public will have plenty to say about pending cuts. The city is hosting a public meeting to get input on what services will be cut without damaging the city. That meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m. in city hall.

When cutting, it's hard to say the beach is more important compared to something like police officers, Greenig pointed out.

School's educational

share

As for the school district, the district would contact with the DLCCC for community education services as well.

"There are a lot of complexities," Greenig said.

Just a couple of those complexities include Early Childhood Family Education and the Alternative Learning Center and their need to be taught by certified instructors. Those programs will still be under the umbrella of the school, and Greenig predicts the ALC will move to the Minnesota State Community and Technical College. That's what could happen anyway, he speculated.

Other questions would be is the school going to take on driver's education 100 percent, and what about Latchkey?

"It's an interesting thought, though -- the community center running all the community projects."

In his 34 years with community education, Greenig said, "The fabric of community ed -- almost everyone directly or in directly -- has been touched by community ed."

Taking a class, going to the beach, GED preparation and testing, open gym, there are so many things that community education is involved in. "These are things that make us special," he said.

Regardless of what happens, Greenig said he of all people wants a solution.

"Everyone wants to bring closure to this," he said. No one likes change, and this is a "tremendous" change. "It weighs on me heavily to bring closure on this," he said.

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