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LEWISTON -- Parents of city gymnasts say they're worried that efforts to privatize a recreation department program will price their kids out of the sport.
"It won't be accessible any longer, not to your average Lewiston citizen," said Tory Dresser, mother of 5-year-old Valentine. "I don't know what the median income is here, but I can tell you this program would not accessible if you have to pay $150 per eight or nine weeks."
Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said the city is negotiating with two individuals to take over the program as a private business.
"We are not saying there will be no programming and that will be theof it," Nadeau said. "We are trying to move this program from being a city-operated and sponsored program to a private one that would operate at the Lewiston Armory. They would set it up and take it down. It would be their personnel and we would not be involved at all."
Nadeau said the city doesn't want tothe program, but it cannot afford to keep running it as it is. The current budget, adopted by city councilors in May, eliminated five maintenance positions, including three at the Memorial Armory.
That leaves a staff of 4.5 full-time employees to handle all maintenance matters at city buildings.
"All of those responsibilities belong to that staff," Nadeau said. "All of the buildings being maintained by the building maintenance division now will include five parking garages and the Lewiston Armory. It's a lot of extra work."
The city has offered two gymnastics program each year -- a September-to-June program, followed by a July summer camp. It gives children ages 3 to 17 a chance to learn the sport and work out on high-quality equipment.
"I like how it's more laid back," said Christine Georges of Greene. "The people have just done an amazing job."
Georges said her 7-year-old daughter, Maya, was nervous at the beginning of the summer program but has grown in confidence and skill. Once afraid to play on the springboard, Maya was confident jumping between uneven bars Wednesday.
"She has hurdled so many fears with this program, and she's like 'Mom, you have to sign me up'," she said. "If I don't sign her up here, she's just going to have to just relive all of that somewhere else."
But Nadeau said the program shares the Armory's floor space with other programs -- basketball, volleyball and social groups. The gymnastics equipment takes up the entire floor area and must be put away and removed each time to make room for those other groups. City staff has done that work so far.
"It's a multi-functional operation, and gymnastics takes up a large part of that, related to staffing," Nadeau said. "In our opinion, that is something of concern. We believe it needs to be looked at, and we are starting that discussion with the City Council."
Jessica Harlow of Lewiston said she's afraid privatizing the program would price her out. A Lewiston resident, she paid $45 to enroll her 8-year-old daughter, Sara, in the summer program. Families that live outside of Lewiston pay $65 for the summer program.
"I feel like $45 is reasonable," Harlow said. "I wish I could do more, because they do great job introducing a sport that seems unattainable to a lot of kids. But when the costs start climbing up, it prices out families. It's really unfortunate."
The City Council has scheduled a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Lewiston City Hall. Topics include amenities in Kennedy Park and the gymnastics program.