Backers of Pike Run recreation program angered over lack of progress

Montgomery Municipal Alliance accused of foot-dragging.

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — Ever since the township Board of Education passed a resolution July 25 allowing school buses to be used by the Montgomery Township/Rocky Hill Municipal Alliance and Youth Services Commission to transport children from the Pike Run development to recreational programs at the Otto Kaufman Community Center, "nothing happened," according to Pike Run resident Jerome Carr.
   The Municipal Alliance approved $1,317 for the recreation project, $1,825 for hip-hop dance classes and $360 for drivers for the buses on July 11, Mr. Carr said.
   But no such programs have came to fruition.
   "It’s our impression that the program failed because of old-fashioned foot-dragging," said Mr. Carr, who, along with his wife Renee, co-founded APIECE — A Parents’ Initiative for Every Child’s Education.
   "The (Municipal Alliance) chairwoman was an obstacle to what it was we were trying to accomplish, and we didn’t get the impression that she was really interested in seeing the program realized," Mr. Carr asserted.
   Mr. Carr said he and his wife had been lobbying for about two years to bring a recreation program to Pike Run. He said he was told that the Municipal Alliance could aid the program, and he subsequently sent in the forms to request the funds after attending a meeting.
   Mr. Carr said Vokaye Parker, who became chairwoman of the Montgomery Township/Rocky Hill Municipal Alliance and Youth Services Commission earlier this year, was one of the alliance members who voted to approve the recreation project. "I don’t understand why she would vote for it and then stand as an obstacle to getting things done," Mr. Carr said.
   But Ms. Parker cited Mr. Carr and his wife as the reason the bus program was not carried out.
   "Renee and Jerome Carr decided to cancel the program. It won’t be running this summer," Ms. Parker said.
   Mr. Carr disputed that assertion.
   "We had the permits for the Otto Kaufman Community Center," Mr. Carr said. "The director of the Community Center was 110 percent in support of the program. The board (of education) voted to support it. The only foot-dragging that went on with this coming together was by the chair of the Municipal Alliance."
   He added, "We sent her a final e-mail letting her know we would not be relegated to a volunteer position in our own program. Once we sent her that e-mail, we washed our hands of it."
   Ms. Parker could not be reached for further comment. She did not return follow-up phone calls seeking comment.
   Township Commiteewoman Cecilia Birge, the committee’s liaison to the Municipal Alliance, said, "I have no doubt the Municipal Alliance is in support of the (recreation) programs. The hip-hop program was sponsored by Vokaye."
   Ms. Birge added, "There are procedures (with the Municipal Alliance) you have to follow through with because of certain requirements. The programs have to be related to substance abuse prevention."
   Ms. Birge noted that the Township Committee also supports the Municipal Alliance and the programs the Carrs are trying to implement.
   Township Committeeman John Warms, who has been active in many issues with the Pike Run development, said, "I have had a meeting with the owners of Pike Run and we are talking about possible solutions and providing some recreation areas up there."
   Mr. Warms continued, "There is an indoor basketball court up there and the rules are such, from what I am told, that it is not available to children without an adult present. We’re in the process of working some things out so hopefully we can come up with a solution."
   Mr. Carr said the court is a half-court and that problems arise there, not only from the age-restriction rules, but also that the court is often crowded.
   "We wanted to have an area or have a recreational program that would give kids a variety," Mr. Carr said.
   As of now, there will be no busing program for the Pike Run children this summer. But, Mr. Carr said, he and his wife hope to work something out for the fall.
   "We plan to work with the members of the Municipal Alliance that were supportive of the project, and with other agencies in Montgomery that are supportive of the idea to see if perhaps we can get something started in the fall," Mr. Carr said. "Although the children missed an opportunity in the summer, maybe we can make it up to them with a recreation program in the fall."
   The Municipal Alliance receives $18,000 a year from state grants, and another $5,000 from county grants. In addition, the alliance is charged with raising another $6,000 in cash as a condition of receiving the grants. The alliance funds programs including "Girls On the Run" and "Red Ribbon Month," as well as talks and seminars for township residents.