Jackson Parents Question Costs For Wrestling Program

Photo by Jennifer Peacock

JACKSON – Parents of a wrestling team involved with the township’s recreation program are seeking answers to where some of their money has gone.

Council members are equally curious and want answers as well.

The situation came to light during a Feb. 13 council meeting when resident and parent Nicholas Russo addressed the governing body with his questions and concerns about the wrestling program.

Russo said that in addition to the regular $50 recreation department participant fee “we had a $30 fee, not from the township but for referees fees and we don’t know where that money is going. Each wrestler was also forced to buy sweat shirts for another $30.” That request did not come from the township either.

“Who told you that?” Councilman Scott Martin asked.

Business Administrator Helene Schlegel confirmed that $50 does go to the township’s recreation department and that Team Jackson charges the additional $30. “I have to investigate this further,” she said.

Schlegel recently recommended some adjustments concerning recreation fees that would adequately cover some of its recreation department programs. Some programs were eliminated due to their interest level while some saw fee increases to cover expenses.

The administrator said during recent council meetings that the township is not allowed to see a profit off the recreation department’s programs but needed to cover its expenses of operation.

Russo also brought up that parents take part in covering costs for a concession stand during the wrestling season. He said money from that was taken in cash.

“Where does that money go?” Russo asked.

“That should never be done in cash,” Council President Robert Nixon said.

Russo said the group appreciated the fact that no increase was being seen this year for the wrestling program by the township.

He added after the meeting that between the regular participation fee and the additional costs the program per wrestler was coming up to around $117 “plus donating money which is going somewhere.”

Russo’s questions have come about at a time when the township’s Holbrook Little League team made up of 12-year-old All-Stars and which participated in the Little League World Series last August, is facing financial concerns and a similar query as to “where is the money?”

Several families of the local little league have asked League officials that same question. Around $1,600 per family showed up in December 2017 but questions about the slow reimbursements and the League’s refusal to release financial documents has become a serious issue.

It has been reported that the Holbrook Little League has failed to file nonprofit tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service for the last three years. This failure could jeopardize its continued tax-exempt status.

Schlegel said in a prepared statement following a Feb. 27 council meeting that “after investigating the information provided at the (earlier February) council meeting it appears that Team Jackson is a private parents’ club acting as the competitive arm of wrestling.”

She added that “our recreation program is instructional only and Team Jackson offers those children who wrestle competitively the option of going to tournaments. We are the feeder program to Team Jackson. There is no affiliation with Jackson Recreation and our registration form which states matches are optional and not included in our registration.”

Schlegel directed parents with questions regarding fees outside the township’s recreation program to Team Jackson. “We do not provide the oversight. This is no different than the little leagues, soccer leagues, etc.”

Representatives from Team Jackson were not available for comment.

Volunteerism In Full Strength

In other council business the governing body began their meeting praising township volunteers for all they do.

Martin remarked that he had recently attended the installation of officers of a township emergency squad. He also commended the work of the Jackson Commission for the Disabled saying he had attended a recent function of that agency.

Nixon said that the township’s volunteers were “the shining stars of our community.” He also commended the work of those involved in law enforcement.

The council vice president noted a recent police incident where an officer had to defend himself during a violent confrontation. “No one was hurt thankfully. I ask that if you see a police officer in town please go over and say hello. There is a war against police and seems to be continuing in this country.”

Council President Kenneth Bressi also praised first responders and concurred with Nixon regarding the existence of some negative public opinion directed toward law enforcement.

“They (police) never know when they might be ambushed or shot at during a response. There does seem to be a war on police which is outlandish,” Bressi said.

A second public hearing was held concerning the annual Community Development Block Grant for 2018. This year’s project concerns an application for $140,000 for automatic doors at various municipal facilities.