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Businesses step up to make summer rec a reality

"It looks like we'll have summer rec this year," reported Don Niles, a Wadena City Council member who also serves on the summer rec board.

That may sound obvious, but it wasn't a given this year after Wadena-Deer Creek School fell on hard budget times and reduced its annual contribution from around $26,000 in previous years to just $10,000 this year.

That prompted some last-minute cost-cutting and a large drive to attract business sponsorship to keep the summer rec programs operating and the Wadena outdoor pool open this year. It will also mean some fee increases.

"There's a shortfall of $16,000 on the school's side, so it forced us to raise fees," Councilman Toby Pierce said. "I hate to see us raising fees for children to get into a swimming pool."

Mayor Wayne Wolden agreed, noting the increase in a day fee for kids (now $1.50, was $1) and day passes for kids (now $40, was $30) could keep some away. Family season passes also went up, from $60 to $80, and adult day admission went from $2 to $3.

"This will make some people consider whether they can afford to use the pool," he said.

On the plus side, Pierce said, the number and quality of program offerings this summer haven't appeared to change.

"No cuts were made [to programs] based on budget," Niles said. "There were some made based on programming needs."

Niles said business donations this year of $10,105, including $3,000 from Wal-Mart, made the difference in budgeting. There will also be some deficit spending, leaving only $920 on the books at the end of the fiscal year. He said salaries are going to be down a bit for summer rec and pool employees this year, too.

Niles pointed out that the business community contributed more to summer rec this year than the school.

Councilwoman Kay Browne, who also serves on the Community Education committee, said the school is watching cuts from the state to see if it can contribute any more in the future.

"We'll be revisiting it after the Legislature gets done," Browne said. "There's a possibility more money will come."