by Dennis Dalman
What will change when the Sartell Community Center becomes staffed and managed starting in May by the Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s Community Education Program?
The changes will likely not be apparent because the center will still be owned by the city, and the school district’s input to the center will be an enhancement of what has already been taking place.
At the Feb. 25 city council meeting, members voted unanimously to allow the school district to operate, manage and staff the Center. The school board also unanimously approved the partnership the same night. It’s not a brand-new development because from the get-go that was in the plans – to have the district provide lots of input for the center as a partnership with the city.
The $11-million Sartell Community Center opened 17 months ago. During that time, the city contracted with a St. Cloud-based company, ProFields, to do management, staffing and operations. That contract was meant to expire so the school district could take on the job. Currently until May 1, ProFields employees are working with school employees to share their expertise.
The city’s agreement with the district is identical to the one it had with ProFields, Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said.
“The city,” she said, “will continue the same functions as we do now. We own the building and are responsible for everything about it, but we are contracting day-to-day staffing to the school district.”
The city will maintain the building, she noted.
If the city council decides changes or additions should be made at the center, it will work with the district to implement any changes, Degiovanni said, noting the city will still have the final say-so about any aspects of the center’s functioning and its policies.
The city, she said, will save about $20,000 a year by having the district operate the center rather than a private company.
“The school district has staff with the experience and expertise in this type of facility management, and so contracting with them for day-to-day staffing makes sense and it lowers the cost for our taxpayers,” Degiovanni said.
She said district staff at the center could be a variety of people with a minimum of two staff members present in the building during open hours. They could well be students, interns or others who enjoy people and activities, she said.
The district’s Community Education staff includes its director, youth-program coordinator, adult-program coordinator and a scheduler. That kind of expertise, Degiovanni said, is a “great fit” for the Center and its visitors’ needs.
Staffing also involves many part-time building attendants who help with set-up operations for events, activities and serving customers.
Degiovanni said she anticipates a smooth transition to school district staffing and operations.
“The Community Ed staff already schedules and manages so many things for the school district that adding our Community Center to the mix just seems like a great fit,” she said.
“We thought it would be good to get it (the center) up and running and have a full year of operations under our belt so they can walk into a system that is already running well, and that is how it has played out. So now we take our time to transition over the coming months and then we work to keep it a great asset for Sartell.”