HOOKSETT — In the interests of protecting camper safety, the Hooksett School Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to relocate the town’s YMCA Day Camp of Hooksett from the Town Hall to Hooksett Memorial School.
Hooksett’s annual summer camp, long known as the “Fun in the Sun Summer Camp,” was taken over by the Granite YMCA in late February when the Town Council voted to allow the organization to step in and remedy safety and organizational issues.
While the town’s initial plan was to stage the camp at the Town Hall and Donati Park and to bar anyone who wasn’t affiliated with the program from the park, former Acting Town Administrator Don Winterton announced on Tuesday that he had worked to broker a tentative agreement between YMCA Allard Center Executive Director Bob McKenny and Memorial Principal Stephen Harrises in order to create a safer experience for campers.
“As you people know better than anyone, when kids come to school they don’t interact with the public,” said Winterton to the Board. “Kids that attended camp at the Fun in the Sun program, unfortunately, interacted with the public way too much. They shared bathrooms with the public; they shared playgrounds with the public; and in this person’s mind, that diminished the level of safety for the kids that attended the camp.”
In his appeal to the Board, Winterton outlined that the relocation would impose no additional cost on the school, stating that any janitorial or field maintenance costs would be taken care of by the town as part of its agreement with the Granite Y.
The relocation is “a great match and it does not appear that it’s going to have a real significant impact on any of our operations,” said Harrises at the meeting.
Winterton repeated his former announcement that he would step down from his Acting Town Administrator position as of 12:01 a.m. April 3, following public backlash about his decision to hire a part-time seasonal Parks and Recreation coordinator in spite of Hooksett voters rejecting the creation of a full-time Parks and Recreation director for three years in a row.
Winterton told the Union Leader that he intentionally delayed the date of his resignation in order to make sure he could see through the relocation of the town’s summer camp.
“We made a great step forward for the kids and the residents of Hooksett. It’s going to be a great place for camp,” said Winterton.
The restructuring of the Fun in the Sun program was a major pet project for Winterton over the course of the roughly three months that he spent as the town’s acting top official.
During that tenure, he leveraged a friendship with Granite YMCA Vice President of Camping Services Tom Archer to create the partnership with the town, he attained assurances that the Public Works Department would maintain the Memorial fields while the day camp was held there, he got the Hooksett Fire Department to agree to hose the campers off on especially hot days, and he worked to raise scholarship money from local organizations to support campers in need of financial assistance with the registration fees.
So far, Winterton says he’s secured $20,000 in scholarship funds from The Salvation Army. He pledged on Tuesday to continue to raise funds in his capacity as a private citizen if the need should arise.
“I’ve made a personal commitment that if we run short of scholarship money, I’ll go find it,” said Winterton.
“I’ve already got commitments from organizations within Hooksett that are willing to add more money to the Y scholarship fund so that kids that need camp the most are going to get camp,” he said.
Although registration for the YMCA Day Camp of Hooksett was previously open to residents outside of Hooksett, Tuesday’s decision by the School Board means that registration will be limited to Hooksett residents until April 15.
“My speculation is if this camp takes place in Memorial School, a lot of people are going to want to send their kids there,” said Winterton.
Registration information can be found on the town’s website at http://ow.ly/kylu30ojGWy.