ALPENA - In 2010 Alpena residents passed a millage that would help to support area sports and recreation. During its duration it has provided funds to help keep the cost of some activities affordable, improved facilities and, in some instances, keep some entities from closing.
Last week the Alpena County Youth & Recreation Committee awarded the final round of appropriations for projects in the county. This year nearly$450,000 was allocated for 34 recreational needs. Overall there has been about $1.8 million invested from the millage for 119 projects.
Chairman Tony Suszek said he believes the tax money has been invested well. He said there have been projects that impacted most people in one form or another, no matter where they live in the county. He said when the millage passed it saved some entities.
"I think the money has been allocated well and I think things like the Plaza Pool and 4-H may have been forced into closing without it," Suszek said. "There have been great projects going on in the outlying areas and it is a great thing for the entire community."
Originally the millage was planned to address the need for support at Plaza Pool, but developed into one that would help support all types of recreation. The pool has received a lion's share of the funds and Alpena Public School also has received a large amount to help keep sports programs intact. In 2014 the pool or Friends of the Plaza Pool will receive $97,755, while APS will receive $92,039, including $20,000 each for girls softball and the Alpena High School band.
Suszek said tight budgets at APS already has restricted sports and music programs and things will be difficult once the millage expires at the end of the year.
"The schools have cut so much for sports as it is and we have sort of been a lifeline for them," Suszek said. "Without the millage the prices to participate would have went up significantly. We know the parents of these kids are tax payers and don't think it would be fair to have them pay twice. This helps keep the cost down. We are very sensitive about keeping the price down to where everyone can afford it."
It must now be decided if the county will seek a renewal of the half mill. Suszek said the committee is going to be discussing it, see how much need there still is and then will make a recommendation to the board of commissioners. He said the final decision will be made by the commissioners.
"As a committee we haven't decided anything yet, but we will make a recommendation to the commissioners in January or February," Suszek said. "I think if there isn't a renewal the pool will close because I don't know how they will be able to make it. There are some that need the support. There was a lot done. The facilities have been improved and costs kept low, but it will be up to the commissioners. People should contact their commissioner and tell them them if they are for or against it. I think it has been great and helped in a great number of ways."
If it is decided a renewal for the millage will be requested, Suszek said he would like to have it on the August ballot. He said if it was wasn't until November there would be little time to allocated the money for 2015.
"If we did it in November we would never be able to hear the proposals and turn everything around fast enough. It wouldn't be fair to the groups submitting proposals," Suszek said. "If we do it in August we will still be backed up, but would be able to get it done."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.