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Park & Rec Grapples with Director’s Departure

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KENT—Faced with the imminent departure of Director Jared Kuczenski and the advent of winter programs, the Park & Recreation Commission grappled Dec. 18 with how to provide supervision until a new director is hired.

“[First Selectman Martin Lindenmayer] reached out to me to see how Jared will be working and how we will man the office,” said P&R Chairman Michael Perkins.

“Jared is a bonus—he could have taken accrued vacation and ended his time a week ago, but he set up so he was taking partial vacation days and continued working.”

Because Kuczenski, whose full-time tenure with the town ends with the year, wasn’t in his office recently when some packages were delivered and not put away, the commission chewed over ways to man the office and handle such physical tasks.

Lindenmayer had expressed concern about having the office open and not letting mail pile up.

“What is the value of having somebody in the office,” asked commission member Abigail Smith Hanby. “When we had a gap in the past there was no one in the office. What are we trying to achieve?”

The commission debated whether the members had time to handle some tasks, whether program aides could handle them, or whether to hire an interim director while they search for a permanent replacement for Kuczenski.

Kuczenski said it is unlikely program aides could provide much useful service as most are high school students, two have taken new jobs, and others are unlikely to come to Kent to work for only an hour or two.

“It’s not worth their while,” he said.

Discussion turned to how to keep the programs going and which ones needed direct supervision.

Smith noted that an interim director was previously hired because “the commission doesn’t have capacity to run the programs. We couldn’t keep it up.”

But Lynn Mellis Worthington, the selectmen’s liaison to the commission, said hiring an interim director “is a whole other level.”

Kuczenski said his time is up but offered to work part time for the town during the transition if “we can make sure that it works for me.”

Eventually, the commission decided to take him up on his offer of hourly coverage at a pro-rated wage equivalent to his current compensation. 

Kuczenski said he did not want any “drama” because he would be working remotely.

In this capacity he would do payroll, schedule activities and coverage, process invoices and do “enough to keep things afloat” until a new director can be hired.

“This is a good solution for the interim period,” said Worthington. “The idea of hiring an interim director on top of hiring a regular director terrifies me.”

It was noted that the funds to compensate Kuczenski are already in the budget.

Because he will not be in the office, the commission returned to the problem of processing boxes.

“I think the package thing is overblown,” said Kuczenski, who explained that he had ordered some small items for a program.

“There were three packages that weighed about 30 ounces,” he said. “I really don’t understand what the big deal is. I think it’s okay to put the package thing to rest.”

When Perkins suggested a new introductory dance class in the Kent School Dance Studio behind Kent Town Center, Kuczenski said the commission should not try to develop new programs until a new director is hired.  

The commission discussed the possibility of holding open skating this winter on the Kent School rink, but Kuczenski said it “was a big loser” financially in previous years.

“We were paying $300 to $350 an hour and weren’t recovering that,” he reported.

Smith suggested having fewer open skates and combining them with “sticks and pucks” sessions.

Worthington said there has been a long history of South Kent School donating ice time for open skating and said she would approach the South Kent rink manager to see if this is possible.

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