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Paquin Tower recreation program threatened by city budget cutbacks

Sunday, July 20, 2008 | 7:43 p.m. CDT; updated 3:19 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
George Bonnell, a resident of Paquin Tower, paints a scene of a sailboat, dock and house using acrylic paints provided by the Parks and Recreation Department. Bonnell learned to paint four years ago through classes provided by at the residential center. He has also taken trips to Amish country and St. Louis.

COLUMBIA — Martin Andrews was 10 years old the first and only time he saw the ocean. And though 50 years have come and gone since then, his brush strokes bring him back through the swells of memory.

“I loved it there,” Andrews said. “The best part was sitting in the water.”

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Andrews paints his ocean and country scenes in an acrylic painting class offered at Paquin Tower. The class is part of the Adaptive Recreation Program, which is paid for by the Department of Parks and Recreation. In addition to painting and ceramics classes, the Adaptive Recreation Program helps Paquin residents get to grocery stores and attractions. The goal is to provide residents, the majority of whom are elderly or have disabilities or forms of limited mobility, ways to enjoy recreation. The program also sponsors monthly trips to Wal-Mart and Aldi — normal bus routes would force residents to cross Business Loop 70 to get to Aldi.

But as the city tightens its belt and prepares to scale back spending, the fate of Paquin’s Adaptive Recreation Program is uncertain at best.

“It is the city manager’s budget and I don’t want to comment, but I will say that it is a tight budget,” Lori Fleming, finance director, said. “It’s a very tight budget.”

City Manager Bill Watkins refused to comment on the budget or its impact on the Paquin Program. But in an e-mail to the City Council, which the Missourian obtained through the Sunshine Law, Watkins said that he had asked Mike Hood, Parks and Recreation director, to let the staff at Paquin know that “it was under strong consideration for elimination.”

Watkins listed several reasons why the Paquin Program may be cut. The program costs the city about $88,000 a year. Watkins said it was expensive, created nearly no revenue and served a limited group of people. He also said that the Housing Authority would not put any money into the program, even though it owns the building and the residents are getting the most use of the recreation programs.

Watkins also wrote about the Department of Parks and Recreation budget concerns.

“Rec Services continues to lose a growing amount of money,” Watkins wrote in the e-mail. “This year we don’t have any money to feed the program and next year with current trends, we come close to running a deficit with Parks sales tax.”

The budget will be released at the end of the month. The council will then have to approve the budget in September.

Lee Radtke, Paquin site manager, said that while she understands the need for a tighter budget, the program does too much good to be cut.

“The Housing Authority’s funds coming from HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) are limited,” Radtke said. “We understand that the city has budget concerns, but this is not just programming. We have residents who produce works of art. They also have a chance to get out and interact with the community.”

Until the fate of the program is decided, those who participate in the Adaptive Recreation Program will do what they’ve always done. They’ll craft. They’ll sculpt. They’ll paint with 99-year-old hands and wrist attachments.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t paint. It’d be boring,” Andrews said. “This keeps you going. It gets you out of the apartment and keeps you from watching TV It’s fun to me. For some people it may not be, but it is to me. It’s a way to pass the time, and I do enjoy it.”

George Bonnell, a resident who’s participated for four years, says that developing his skill can sometimes be tough.

“Every once in a while I get aggravated because I can’t do it so good,” said Bonnell. “But I just keep trying to do the best I can. I like it.”

Both Andrews and Bonnell said that they have created at least 30 paintings through the acrylic class. While Andrews said some of his paintings are hanging in the hallways of Paquin, he still has a suitcase full of them in his apartment. Bonnell is in the same boat and keeps his in recycling bags because they are big enough to accommodate the canvases.

Despite all he has learned from the class and the enjoyment he gets from painting, Bonnell said if the class ended his hobby might, too.

“If I had to do it in my apartment, I probably wouldn’t do it,” Bonnell said.

Polly Dunavant, who’s worked at Paquin since it opened in 1973 and teaches the acrylic painting class, said that the program is invaluable to residents. She thinks the council will agree, and the program will continue.

“I think they are going to do everything they possibly can to save as much as they can,” Dunavant said. “City Council will see how wonderful this place is. I have faith that they will find funds for us.”

For now though, Andrews will keep painting purple tints across the sky of his country sunsets, one brush stroke at a time.


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Comments

Charles Dudley Jr July 21, 2008 | 9:57 a.m.

First off this is not meant to bash any one authority or person but this is meant to bring attention to obvious discrepancies in policies and public views on this subject.

On the comments by Bill Watkins I have some issues with though.He states that the program does not bring in much money but have they ever advertised this program to the citizens or community groups of Columbia who are disabled and might be looking for a program as this to utilize? Have they gone and asked or formed committees to look into funding for this program in the past to create a contingency plan for just this cause that is now being faced? Bill says it only benefits a "limited group of people"? Well my question to that is did the head of the Parks and Recreation Department or the City Manager(past and present) ever think of offering it to the disabled children in our community and to more of the elderly population of Columbia?

I also have a problem with the comments made by Lee Radtke as well on this issue as she has told the newspaper here that the program "does too much to cut" which is totally true as Columbia Housing Authority does not do very much at all for it's residents besides what is actually mandated by H.U.D. guidelines and their "Resident Services" does not have a worker in their office at Paquin Towers on a 5 day a week work schedule(9 am to 5 pm) and due to this the staff of the Parks and Recreation Department at Paquin Towers picks up ALL of the slack left over due to these issues with the Columbia Housing Authority. If this program is cut there will be NO ONE to pick up that slack by the vacuum that will be created and that will be a huge space to fill. Lee Radtke has said to me personally that the crafts room "was not being properly utilized and could be better utilized as an exercise room due to the limited space where it is now downstairs" which is a nice point but in the past run of exercise programs that have been at Paquin Towers by the Columbia Housing Authority or in conjunction there has been interest for a very short and limited amount of time and then they tend to die off due to lack of interest and isn't that what the "A.R.C." was built for anyway? So if the Columbia Housing Authority was to develop such another exercise program couldn't utilize Columbia Transit which runs right in front of Paquin and stops right in front of the A.R.C.?

See the entire story behind the scenes is not getting out into the public and this is what I have an issue with and will continue to have an issue with until the citizens of Columbia hold our city officials accountable for their policies and actions on this issue.

This is not a game my fellow citizens but this concerns peoples mental health,physical health and their daily well being over all.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 17, 2008 | 10:20 p.m.

An August 6th. memo from our city manager/staff endorsed by Parks&Rec's executive director, Mike Hood, reveals a very extensive program of services and activities which benefit people with disabilities and our community at
large. Thanks to questions raised by councilman Jerry Wade and the diligence of councilman Karl Skala, many questions about the program have been answered. The program began in the early 70's. Considering that we are now looking at 2008/2009--$88,000 looks like a bargain to me!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2008 | 7:44 p.m.

Whooohooo!! Mad props and approval for the saving of the Adaptive Recreational Program residing at Paquin Tower to be saved in it's entirety including all programs as well as all staff was given to the entire City Council at the City Council Meeting Monday evening August 18 2008 at 7pm by the Chairman of the Columbia Disability Advisory Commission which advises the City Council on all issues concerning all programs relating to citizens in our city with disabilities.

Another huge plus towards our over all goal of saving this program intact!

Woott!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2008 | 10:46 p.m.

Good news indeed! Sounds like the Chairman of the City's Disability Commission conveyed to the City Council exactly what we all felt was right and just for the continuation of this important program run by some pretty special folks. I can go to sleep now, with my other eye open.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2008 | 5:06 p.m.

The horse race for P&R's on-site adaptive program at Paquin is heading towards the finish line! Two reporters from the Missourian attended last Thursday's meeting where our two most visibly supportive councilmen spoke. Thank you Mr. Skala and Mr. Wade. ( I'm also looking forward to reading what those two reporters have to say.}
A great letter of support also came from the editor of the Tribune. Thank you Mr. Henry J. Waters III for being so eloquent, factual and real. It is obvious that you deeply care about this unique group of people and the community at-large.

(Report Comment)

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