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Ellinwood working for new Recreation Commission
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ELLINWOOD — The Ellinwood Recreation Committee has been working hard for a year to determine if a formal Recreation Commission for the city is desired by the community and, if so, what would be needed.
This process began in February 2012, when approximately 30 Ellinwood residents gathered to discuss the status of Ellinwood Recreation  and the potential for expanding the offerings. From that meeting, a committee was formed, according to an informational brochure.
“We thought it was time to enhance recreational offerings,” said Mel Waite, member of the steering committee. “We didn’t go into it with any preconceived notions. If the community didn’t want it, we would have stopped. The driving force was the survey.”
 In August and September of 2012, survey data was collected from patrons in the school district, and during school enrollments at both USD 355 and St. Joseph Schools. In addition, surveys were mailed to 1100  registered voters in the district. Data gathered indicated a desire for change in the recreation program.
The survey indicated that only about 24 percent of Ellinwood residents were satisfied with the current recreation opportunities. The survey also said that 85 percent would pay a minimal fee for use of fitness equipment or new classes.
The Recreation Commission would increase the amount of programs available for all ages. In addition, the existing program will be enhanced by the additional funding, organization and competition with a full-time director.
Also, the commission intends to provide bus trips and create adult exercise programs. The program would introduce non-athletic programs for children such as cooking and theater.
More programs would increase social connectedness within the community and friendship. It would also provide jobs and make the community more attractive to newcomers and address health and stress issues.
“This is an attempt to address health needs of all ages,” said Waite. “For Ellinwood as a community to continue to prosper, we have to address quality of life issues.”
The Ellinwood City Council and USD 355 School Board have both passed resolutions in favor of the commission earlier this year.
Ellinwood currently has a recreation budget operated through the city for approximately $15,000, which has funded a part-time director and youth sports.  The city has agreed to continue funding at the same level until January, 2014, when the new assessment would take effect.
The committee is requesting a mill levy assessment of three mills that will be voted on during the April 3 election. For an individual with a home appraised at $100,000, the cost would be $34.50 per year.
If passed, the Recreation Commission would be made up of a five member board, which is required by state statute. Two members of the board would be appointed by the city and two members by the school district. Those four would appoint one at-large position.
If the Recreation Commission is approved, the remainder of 2013 would be spent organizing the board, setting up bylaws and formulating a budget.
The revenue stream would begin in January, 2014, which is when the new programming could begin to be implemented, according to Waite.