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January 22, 2022

Scotts Valley Begins Early Stages of Recreation Restart

As it embarks on the next phase of pandemic planning, Scotts Valley is pushing forward with its plan to restore parks and recreation activities.

Speaking during the most recent Scotts Valley City Council meeting on Dec. 15, Public Works Director Chris Lamm said some things are already back up and running.

“The Parks and Rec office is open,” he said. “We are happy to announce that we have that at the Parks office out at Skypark.”

It was the Parks office back in 2020, before three of its full-time staffers and all part-timers were let go in April that year.

In the meantime, the Public Works Department took over the digs and is now sharing it with Recreation.

Members of the public can visit the front counter to interface with on Parks and Rec matters Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8am-noon.

Earlier this year the City struck a deal with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County, and it’s been running a joint childcare program ever since.

And Lamm ran elected officials through a number of planned changes, emerging from a Management Partners consulting report, which was studied in September via a joint session with the Scotts Valley Parks and Recreation Commission and city council.

“We did definitely hear from the council and the commission the importance of some of the services including child care and the aquatics programs in particular to the community—and some of the senior services,” Lamm said, noting there were a couple dozen recommendations from Management Partners that weren’t opposed by officials. “So that’s kind of where we are at.”

Now Scotts Valley has to prioritize which things it wants to focus on.

“We can’t tackle all 24 items at the same time,” Lamm said. “We do need to kind of balance out the most important ones.”

Staff had previously been given the authority to get started on lining things up.

“We have the pool itself scheduled for resurfacing in the January/February timeframe,” Lamm said. “Without soliciting an [request for proposals] we’ve received two proposals from local swim schools that want to provide programs here in Scotts Valley at the Siltanen pool.”

Since Scotts Valley’s maintenance supervisor was recently promoted to maintenance division manager, the City will have “eyes” on maintenance contracts to make sure they’re executed properly, he added.

Another priority was the child care program. There was some good news—and some bad news.

The bad news was that Congress’s failure to advance Biden’s spending agenda in a timely manner had thrown things into question.

Staff said they now don’t expect a vote on funding for the shuttered Vine Hill after-school facility until February at the earliest, putting the City behind the eight ball for service delivery.

But the good news was that Scotts Valley Unified School District officials have stepped forward to say they want to take the lead in running it.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, the facilities at Vine Hill School, in particular, are in so poor shape to the extent that they are unusable,” Lamm said. “We have been having some discussions with the school district on how to get those facilities replaced, and we’re counting on the infrastructure bill to hopefully be passed in the next year or two to make that a reality.”

SVUSD is looking at managing the program and contracting out to a third-party provider, staff said.

“This is a pretty significant change to how things have been done in the past,” Lamm said. “But it’s definitely a discussion worth having with the school district. They’re in the business of taking care of kids.”

Parks and Rec commissioners, during a November meeting, identified three tweaks to Management Partners’ report.

First, they wanted to make sure the rec manager’s job was reoriented toward managerial duties—and they wanted this right at the top of the priority list.

Second, they wanted a facility fee study prioritized, along with a strategic plan for the department.

“Staff doesn’t have any issues with those proposed changes,” Lamm said but noted it will have to move swiftly to get rec activities started by spring or summer. “We’re already starting.”

Councilman Jack Dilles asked about the “ambitious” timeframe.

“The whole picture looks like a lot to me to get done in Calendar 2022,” he said. “I like all the recommendations. I’m just wondering about the reality.”

Lamm said the City’s hoping to start hiring staff in January, which will help propel the plan.

“It is aggressive,” he said. “I think it’s OK to have an aggressive timeframe and plan. It keeps people’s feet to the fire. But we also do need to be grounded in some reality.”

Vice Mayor Jim Reed wondered about the talks with SVUSD. Staff said it’s still early in the negotiation process.

“I think we’re on the cusp of something that could be really exciting for the community, even if the City’s role would step back a little bit the benefit to Greater Scotts Valley,” he said. “I know in the past we’ve gotten a lot of people into our district from outside, because we had on-site childcare. So, that’s a really important thing for the school district to be able to maintain their money and headcount.”

The council accepted the report unanimously.

Lamm said to expect an update in January.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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