NEWPORT CITY – Phil White, executive director of Indoor Recreation of Orleans (IROC), asked for money from the Newport City Council Monday evening.
IROC, for the past two or three years, raised $85,000 so that area youth could enjoy the facility at no cost. Next March, IROC officials will ask area towns to support the Youth Initiative Program. The goal is to establish a sustainable source of revenue for youth programming at IROC.
This spring, Derby voters approved a Youth Initiative Program at a cost of $19,950. Craftsbury and Coventry voters also supported youth programs. In turn, IROC offered free use of its indoor, one-tenth of a mile, padded walking track, free youth memberships and discounted memberships. Now it’s asking for contributions from other communities with the same benefits.
For Newport, that would be $5,000, or whatever amount it can provide. White told the council he understands Newport City has a recreation department that has many youth programs, however, IROC has the only pool in the area.
“The pool is the most expensive asset to operate,” said White. “It’s great to have the Pump House at Jay, but that’s expensive. We have a free waterslide that’s about as much fun as anything you’re going to get at the Pump House, especially for little kids.”
IROC is willing to take over Border Hoop from Gene Tessier who is retiring, providing there is support to organize it, White said.
Some Derby voters approved the youth program because their community doesn’t have a recreation department of its own, said Mayor Paul Monette, who isn’t keen on giving money when the city’s recreation department, with the exception of having a pool, offers the same type of program as IROC.
“If this community wants a pool for its kids that they can use, there’s got to be a contribution from everyone,” said White. “We cannot afford to keep that pool in operation without support from the entire community.”
Monette told White that many senior citizens stopped walking at IROC because of the cold.
The cold temperatures inside the building are one reason why IROC is trying to raise money, White said.
“We really were on a wartime budget this winter,” he said. “We only heated the sports arena when we had to.”
Council President John Wilson asked White why IROC chose now to ask for the money instead of coming forward when the council was preparing the budget.
White said he plans to start earlier next year.
“It’s a make or break moment,” said White. “If the communities support IROC, we’ll do fine. If the communities don’t support IROC, let it turn into whatever it’s going to be.”
Monette expressed concerns about what would happen to the money of IROC files for bankruptcy.
“There are no guarantees,” answered White. He said since 2007, IROC cut its debt from $3 million to $1.4 million and the bank has indicated a willingness to work with officials. There is also a plan to deal with the debt and deal with cash flow needs so that IROC is not in constant crises. “We’re putting together a pro forma that shows if the communities support IROC we’ll be asking the communities for about $165,000 each year for ten years throughout the county.”
IROC will also ask its largest donors to commit to contributing money every month for 10 years. IROC will also have a bottle drive.
IROC changes the lives of people every day, White said.
Alderman Tim de la Bruere suggested the voters have a say.