SHERIDAN — Representatives from the Sheridan Recreation District proposed reorganizing the district as an independent nonprofit organization to diversify and expand its funding options during a listening session with members of Sheridan City Council Wednesday.
The current contract between the city and the SRD terminates at the end of June and SRD Executive Director Seth Ulvestad said the district would like to negotiate a short-term contract with the city to ensure SRD operations continue, and work with the city through the duration of that contract to develop a new entity for managing the city’s parks and recreation system.
The proposed entity would consolidate the city’s and the SRD’s parks and recreation assets with the aim of carrying out a robust campaign to maintain and enhance those assets.
Ultimately, achieving that goal will boil down to finding more funding.
Ulvestad highlighted the Kendrick Golf Course, Kendrick Pool and the city’s athletic fields as city recreation assets in need of renovations. However, he said both the city and the SRD are limited in their capacities to make those renovations because their budgets rely on tax revenue.
“Our current budgets allow us to stay status quo,” Ulvestad said. “But by setting up a system that encourages private-public partnerships, we can develop resources that go beyond the tax revenue that already exists.”
SRD Board of Directors Vice President Casey Osborn offered a more blunt assessment.
“We’re underfunded by $1 million a year,” Osborn said.
By adopting a nonprofit structure, Ulvestad said the SRD could apply for grants, forge public-private partnerships and launch capital campaigns for project funding.
Osborn said the SRD hopes to adopt a model similar to the one used by The Hub on Smith, which operates as a private nonprofit but maintains, and benefits from, crucial partnerships with the city.
The Hub’s Executive Director Carmen Rideout explained that Sheridan allocates a portion of its revenues from the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax to The Hub, owns its properties and covers its property insurance.
The city has also assisted The Hub with crafting grant applications and sponsoring those applications, Rideout said.
At the same time, the Senior Citizen’s Council, which operates The Hub, assumes the financial and operational costs of The Hub’s programs. By remaining an independent non-profit, Rideout said The Hub has been able to raise both private and public funds to support its operations.
Using that model, Rideout said The Hub’s budget has grown from $1.2 million when she began working there 19 years ago to $4.2 million currently.
Osborn said The Hub’s success soliciting donations from the community during its latest capital campaign — which Rideout said raised more than $10 million — suggests that city residents may be willing to invest in efforts to improve the city’s parks system.
The SRD’s proposal is still conceptual, however. City councilors agreed the city should begin scheduling work sessions with the SRD and other stakeholders in the city’s parks system to begin negotiating solid details for the proposal and evaluating whether it is feasible.
In the meantime, the city and the SRD will need to negotiate a new contract. Ulvestad initially proposed a contract from July 1 to Oct. 1, but Mayor Roger Miller said he did not believe that would give the parties enough time to fully negotiate a new organizational model. Miller said he would prefer the city and SRD sign a year-long contract, both so the entities had sufficient time to work together and so SRD employees have a guaranteed salary through the coming year.
City council and SRD members agreed to begin contacting stakeholders to plan a working session; they did not select a date or meeting time.