About 100 ardent supporters of the 22-year old Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association filled the town board meeting room Monday night, some emotional to the point of tears, others steaming with anger, to plead with commissioners to continue support of the FVAA rather than establish a town youth athletic program.
Despite the pleas from adults inside speaking to the board and dozens of youngsters and adults dressed in their team shirts, kicking soccer balls and tossing footballs on the town hall’s front yard, Commissioners voted 3-2 to begin a town-run youth sports program and end its long association with the non-profit program, starting with the winter season.
Commissioners Charlie Adcock, Cindy Sheldon and Ed Ridpath voted in favor of the change. Commissioners Bill Harris and Jim Abernathy voted against.
All commissioners agreed that the town should establish a recreation advisory board to oversee the town-run programs and asked staff to bring in a proposal for the establishment of such a board by the October meeting.
A proposal that the town make the change to the youth sports program came to the board from Town Manager Jon Barlow. He explained to commissioners that most towns the size of Fuquay-Varina (over 18,000) have recreation programs for their youth.
In an overview of the proposed new approach to a youth sports program, Town Manager John Barlow wrote: “The Town of Fuquay-Varina is now in a position to take full advantage of its talented, professional staff as well as its significant investment in park resources to add a quality youth sports program to the wide-range of services offered to our growing and diverse population.”
Representatives of the town and of the FVAA have been in discussions about relations between the town and the non profit for several months.
The FVAA maintains that “In the past the FVAA has organized and administered the whole youth athletic program including registration, recruiting and training coaches, hiring and paying umpires, scheduling all practices and games, purchasing uniforms, equipment and affiliating with state and national youth organizations.”
The FVAA points out that through the years it has drawn a large contingent of volunteers to serve as coaches, to provide leadership and assistance to youth participants as well as the organization and fee collections. The town has provided playing fields and maintenance of the facilities. Supporters of the status quo predict that volunteers will not come out to assist a town run program.
Some speakers Monday night called the town’s change of direction “a hostile takeover of a non profit.” Others referred to the town’s action as a “coup d’etat.” About a dozen FVAA supporters spoke to the board extolling the work of the organization which drew as many as 3,000 young people in recent years along with 300 volunteers. Many local businesses also supported the non-profit and its programs.
Fears that the town program will discriminate against out-of-town residents were also expressed by some speakers. The FVAA has allowed persons living outside the city limits to participate in the sports program, but they were required to pay higher fees. The town’s proposal would make a similar offer.
Commissioner Bill Harris, who noted that he had coached for the FVAA in years past, said his concern with the plan submitted by Barlow is that its “policies and procedures” are not clear and should be discussed and perhaps changed before the plan is approved.
He also said he thinks it might be worth “going back to the table to negotiate further” rather than to vote on the town plan immediately.
He said the FVAA “has been a part of the very strong fabric of our community” for many years.
As the session for public input broke up, several FVAA supporters shouted to the commissioners, “We’ll vote you out.”