By David McCabe
The Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD) summer beach program is on this summer. That news came from the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday, after the Town of Southampton told the district they would help fund the program and provide key administrative assistance.
The board agreed to help with the program this summer on the condition that Friends of YARD, the non-profit that was established to help raise funds for the program, prepare to take over its operation next summer.
Sandi Kruel, who serves on both the school board and on the Friends of YARD board, indicated the non-profit group would do all it could to make that a reality.
In addition to the $10,500 in funding provided by the school district, and $10,000 which the Friends of YARD is providing, Southampton Town will provide $15,000 to the district to go towards the operation of both the beach program and the drop-in after school program which YARD runs during the academic year. East Hampton Town, the county, the Village of Sag Harbor and the Village of North Haven are also contributing funds to the program.
While many board members had worried it would take too long for lawyers to draw up the intermunicipal agreements (IMA) required to secure the funding for the program this summer, Southampton Town’s Director of General Services Russel Kratoville said that the town had an IMA already prepared.
After it was decided the district would administer the program this summer, the school board directed the district’s superintendent, Dr. John Gratto, to have the district’s lawyer draft a generic IMA that could be used for all the municipalities involved.
At the school board meeting on Monday, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming was in attendance with three town employees: Kratoville, Nancy Lynott, director of the town’s youth bureau, and Virginia Bennett, who works in the human services department at town hall and was present as a resident of Sag Harbor.
“I understood that there were some differing opinions on the school board as to whether the program should continue or how it should continue,” said Fleming, “and so I wanted to do what I could to help clear some of those obstacles, if possible, so that the program could be run in a responsible way.”
Kratoville said he would assist the district in clearing several administrative hurdles that need to be dealt with before the program can operate legally. Foremost amongst these is that the district must obtain a proper civil service title for the director of YARD.
Southampton Town employees will visit the site of the YARD program — something they have done in the past, since they have acted as a funder of the program — to insure it is being well administered.
Board members also raised the possibility that Southampton Town could fully assume operational responsibility of the summer program. Fleming said that would be next to impossible, since such a plan would not have the support of enough of her fellow town board members.
“I don’t think there is the political will on the town council to assume the program,” she said at the meeting.
In recent weeks, the summer program had appeared to be in jeopardy as some members of the school board made it known they could not support the program unless a variety of legal and funding issues were worked out. Those legal issues originally came to light when an auditor found that YARD had been using funds processed through the district, but had been operating without oversight from the school board.
One year ago, the school board decided it would not continue to administer the summer beach program and suggested that YARD supporters form a tax-exempt 501c3 organization to raise funds for the program’s operation. That organization, Friends of YARD, was formed and has been raising funds since last year. However, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to give final approval on the group’s tax-exempt status.
Monday’s decision by the school board essentially gives the Friends of YARD one more year to get their paperwork in order. The greatest challenge, Kruel said, will be to raise the funds necessary to cover the program’s insurance. Currently, the district pays a fairly low fee for insurance. Kruel maintains it will cost Friends of Yard more.
“The problem is having to now fund the insurance policy that could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars. That’s going to be a challenge,” she said — still, she’s optimistic it can be done.
YARD’s supporters hope the beach program will start after the July 4th weekend, though Kruel acknowledged that logistical delays could cause it to start one week later.