Youth soccer in jeopardy

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By John Overby

There were several guests present at Monday’s regularly scheduled Washington County Fiscal Court meeting. Among them were two members of the Wilderness Trace Family YMCA: President and CEO Neal Robinson and Washington County representative Terry Gabhart.

The most highly debated topic in the meeting dealt with the YMCA’s youth soccer program in Washington County. In years past, Washington County youth had the opportunity to play soccer as a local program provided by Wilderness Trace.

However, due to “a depletion in resources,” Robinson and the YMCA have looked at the possibility of putting a tentative halt on the program to reassess it.

“Our limited resources gives me some concern,” Robinson said. “In terms of moving forward, we’re at a point where we need to do a needs-based assessment of our programming.”

Robinson added that he “would be glad to offer” an alternative to the current soccer setup, such as hosting mini-clinics, but noted that a lack of volunteers has made it difficult to run an entire league at this time.

Washington County Deputy Clerk Teresa Marrinan, whose husband, Seamus, is heavily involved in local youth soccer, countered by saying that she feels that the program has “enough volunteer parents.”

“But maybe that’s just from my point of view,” Marrinan said.

Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles added other concerns. He wondered if shutting down the soccer program for even one year could lead to a loss of the program completely.

“When you look at the number of students who are participating, soccer way outdistances anything else that you have,” Settles said, “so if you do away with the sport with the highest number of participants, how much of a program are you going to have left here?”

Settles also made the court aware that a person had contacted him before the meeting interested in acting as a volunteer coordinator for the league for one year.

Gabhart, the current coordinator, agreed that maybe a co-coordinator would be a plausible alternative because, according to her, it is a difficult task for one person to handle, which is how the current system is set up.

“I had to beg for volunteers last year,” Gabhart said, “and a lot of times, the people saying ‘I will, I will!’ don’t.”

Robinson reiterated that the soccer program would not be dissolved but rather reassessed in an attempt to come up with a system that would be “a more sustainable solution.”

While soccer was the main point of discussion at the meeting, another YMCA item on the agenda was to approve a two-part contribution of $7,000 by the court ($3,500 for the programs that have already happened and $3,500 for the programs that are currently going on). Two separate motions were put into place and passed to award the YMCA these contributions.

Other notes:

• The court approved the first reading of the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

• Washington County Public Library Director Tara O’Hagan updated the court on current goings-on at the library. She noted that usage is up 87 percent from last year and that several activities, including Tales for Tots and the adult reading club, have had “amazing” participation.

• The court also appointed Ruth Ann Cocanougher and Cabrina Buckman to the library’s board of trustees. The current appointments expire on June 30, while the new terms will expire on June 30, 2018.

• The county will be applying to receive an area development fund (ADF) grant worth $2,229.01, which the court approved to help retroactively offset the costs of the playground equipment at the ‘Burg Park if they receive it.

• It was revealed in the meeting that a contract to appoint an electrical inspector for the county must be approved by August 1.

• District 2 Magistrate Benjamin Settles, District 3 Magistrate Hal B. Goode and Washington County Road Supervisor Dale Mann were all appointed to a committee to review bids for work on the Froman Lane Bridge.

• Animal Control Officer Pat Spalding was set to be at Monday’s meeting, but his appearance was rescheduled for the next court meeting.

• Since the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year is June 30, the Friday, June 27 meeting was moved to Monday, June 23 to allow more time to “close out the books.”

All magistrates were in attendance.

The next fiscal court meeting will be on Friday, May 23.