City considers reduced-cost rec services

Low-income residents might receive discounts
at recreational facilities.
Monday, December 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:18 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Columbia City Council will receive a report at its meeting tonight proposing a pilot program that would give financial assistance to low-income adults using Columbia Parks and Recreation facilities, including the Activity and Recreation Center.

Parks and Recreation director Mike Hood said his department has received many inquires from low-income adults looking for aid.

The city operates a similar program for children called Youth Enrichment Services.

“We felt that was our highest priority,” Hood said of the youth program.

The council set aside $5,000 in the 2005 budget to start the adult program. The parks department report suggests using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free and reduced lunch income guidelines to decide how much aid each applicant would receive.

Those approved for the program would get aid amounting to 50 percent or 75 percent of the membership or facility costs. To receive a 50 percent discount, the applicant would need to have income between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level. Anyone making less than 130 percent of the poverty level would get 75 percent coverage.

Under the plan, a family of two earning between $16,237 and $23,107 annually could buy a 20-use pass — normally $75 — for $37.50. A two-person family earning less than $16,237 annually could buy the pass for $18.75.

Mary Hussmann of Grass Roots Organizing said she believes the program sounds like a step in the right direction.

GRO has lobbied for an adult assistance program since the ARC opened in 2002. Hussmann said the group believes that for a taxpayer-funded facility, there was too little outreach to those in the community who could not afford to use it.

“We do not feel it should have opened (without such a program),” Hussmann said.

Although Hussmann said she is hopeful the program will be a good start, she is wary that it might be too bureaucratic — something she says is a critical flaw of Youth Enrichment Services.

GRO also would like to see a no-cost bracket included in the adult and youth aid programs, she said.

Hood said he hopes council members will have feedback on the program’s quality when the report is presented tonight.

The report suggests that the council have a work session to discuss the program guidelines. The council will meet at 7 p.m. today in the council chambers at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.

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