As the township prepares to move town hall from it's current location on Preventorium Road to the Global Complex on Route 9, at least one part of the moving process appears to be underway.
A plan has been announced to form a closer partnership between the township's Police Athletic League and the township administration. A Powerpoint presentation on the township's website said the new found partnership will continue many of the already existing programs while providing more opportunities for the residents of the town.
Township Manager Helene Schlegel said changes in the staffing of the recreation department made these proposed sweeping changes possible. "This just fits with the whole direction that the governing body wants to go in," she said. "Which is increasing shared services, saving money, cost effective government and streamlining processes."
Councilman Robert Nicastro said he was excited by the prospects of the new partnership. "I think what happened was the governing body as a whole shared a vision where we wanted to do more for the community by doing a shared service agreement with the board of ed and the PAL," he said.
The councilman pointed to the success the PAL has had coordinating the middle school sports program for the board over the past few years. "We saw the success they had and it's just an opportunity to bring all the organizations together," he said.
While the plan effectively closes the recreation department as it currently stands, those involved believe that it will improve the activities residents can choose from. Part of that belief stems from a shared services agreement with the Howell Board of Education. That agreement will allow the new department of community relations to operate out of the old Southard School.
That includes usage of not only the gym but also the classrooms which should provide the opportunity for a variety of activities to be held at once. The gym at the current recreation department was not being fully utilized making the new agreement a chance to have everything the department offers under one roof.
Under the current agreement between the township, the board of education and the PAL, approximately one quarter of the space at the Southard school would be used by the new department. Schlegel said that the goal could be to one day make Southard a community center for the residents.
Another advantage of this combined partnership is the consolidation of services for the special needs students in the township. While the PAL and the recreation department had each offered programs to those children, there will now be one program for everyone to come together in.
In addition to helping to better serve the community, the presentation points to savings to the township by dissolving the recreation department in its current form. Without the full time salaries of the department as well as other areas of spending, the savings is estimated to be in the $100 thousand range.
The PAL offices will also relocate from their current location in the Veterans of Foreign Wars building on Adelphia Road to the Southard School as part of the agreement. Schlegel said the township is in the process of analyzing the VFW's usage of the building as well as the needs of the Howell Food Pantry which also utilizes the building.
The director of the new department will handle several duties including running the annual recreation summer camp. That person will also supervise special activities like next weekend's annual Howell Day celebration.