BY MICHAEL RICONDA
At a press conference at the Louis Kurtz Civic Center where the camp was originally meant to accommodate campers, Mayor Demeza Delhomme and Village Attorney Jerrold Miles explained ongoing legal and staffing issues precluded the Village from allowing the camp to open.
Youth Director Sonia Barton, who typically organizes the camp, was suspended from her position for unnamed “disciplinary issues” earlier in July. Barton argued the firing disrupted her ability to obtain certification for the camp, further complicating matters.
With Barton gone, Miles stated that finding a last minute replacement would be difficult due to the friction between Delhomme and the rest of the Village Board of Trustees and a cooperative solution was unlikely at the present time. “There is a schism between certain members of the board and the mayor which has created a lot of what we see on a regular basis in the news,” Miles said.
According to Delhomme, the village wanted to open the camp, but argued that even with the discussed transfer of the program to the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center, no certified individuals are currently available to supervise. “I want to make it clear to all the residents in this village: It is not my intention to not provide the children of the village with enrichment of a place to spend their summer days,” Delhomme said.
Trustees Asher Grossman, Emilia White and Vilair Fonvil have been at odds with Delhomme over the summer camp since Barton’s dismissal. The three voted in a special meeting to pursue a temporary restraining order to prevent the mayor from blocking the program and have explored the possibility of bringing Barton back as an independent contractor.
Miles confirmed an emergency writ was currently in effect. Delhomme and the Village have until the end of the month to prepare a response.
Meanwhile, Delhomme has continued to argue that not only was a director missing, but that personnel did not have CPR certification for several years and the Civic Center was still undergoing needed renovations. Once again, Delhomme cast the blame on Barton for failing to put together a state-approved program by summertime.
“It was the job of the civic center to make sure everyone had CPR classes,” Delhomme said.
Delhomme did confirm a youth program would open in the MLK center at some point, possibly as late as the fall. A $20,000 grant was provided by the Village for the program, though Executive Director Nathan Mungin had previously stated he was unfamiliar with any deal to use the MLK center for the camp.