It is never easy to start the summer camp program season for local youth commissions, but this year proved to be even tougher and many Essex County supervisors feel it may get worse.
During the July 8 Economic Development Committee meeting, many supervisors voiced concerns that new regulations with training of camp leaders and guidelines would seal the fate of local summer programs.
“It is going to come to the point where the state is going to mandate that each camp have an RN,” Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said. “They are going to make it so we cannot fund the program and we will have to close them down.”
“I spent many hours going through the paperwork that was needed to fill out the application,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said.
“If it were not for our emergency squad offering some last minute training to our people, we would not have been able to open,” Jay Supervisor and county chairman Randy Douglas said. “I was at the camp this morning before I came to the meeting making sure everything was ready for opening day.”
County planner Mike Mascarenas, who also works with the Essex County Youth Bureau, said that the state regulations are more strict than the ones given by the American Red Cross.
“The Red Cross says that you have to take the first-aid course every two years, while the state DOH comes in and says that you need to take it annually,” Mascarenas said. “You would think that the Red Cross standard, who you could say are the professionals in the field, would be good enough for the state, but now we are paying double to train our staff because we have to do it annually.”
Connell said that he knew that the intentions for increased safety was coming from the right place, but that the state should weigh the issues with potential alternative.
“I know that this is all coming from the perspective of making sure that the kids are safe and can be taken care of,” Connell said. “But you have to stop and look at the fact that if you make it so towns cannot run these programs anymore, then you will have a lot of kids in bad situations because this is where they go during the summer while parents are at work.”
“We have a summer program that has between 140 and 180 kids at it every day,” Scozzafava said. “If they were not here, then they would be at home and often times unsupervised.”
Mascarenas said the frustration in the late change in requirements came because the state made a change that he was unaware of.
“We have a lot of people who think that all these regulations are coming from the county or the Youth Bureau, and that is just not the case,” he said.