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Rec director takes a hike

Last modified: 4/9/2011 12:00:00 AM
Hopkinton's recreation director, frustrated by a lack of 'potential for growth' in his department, is resigning to hike the Appalachian trail with his wife.

Justin La Vigne, who has overseen Hopkinton's recreation department for the last three and a half years, will leave the post May 13.

'It's just a lifelong dream that we've had,' La Vigne said of the hike, which he will begin in early June at Baxter State Park in Maine and finish at Springer Mountain in Georgia in early December.

La Vigne, 34, said he has been asking the town for help over the last couple of years, namely by hiring a part-time assistant. But the selectmen made it clear that more money wouldn't be spent on his department, he said.

'It's a wonderful job. I absolutely love it. But I didn't see any potential for growth within the department,' La Vigne said, adding: 'I don't blame them; times are tough.'

During his tenure, La Vigne said, he started the Movie in the Park series that screens four films each summer. He has overseen the development of the Fourth of July celebration, which began in his first year on the job, and he also started a fall festival. La Vigne said the town's summer camp has become self-sufficient - instead of receiving money from the town budget - under his watch.

Around Christmastime, La Vigne organizes a holiday lights contest, a gingerbread house workshop and a Santa calling, in which parents fill out forms about their children's wish lists and behavior in order to get a call from 'Santa.'

'I wanted to leave while things were on a high,' La Vigne said. 'I figured it was time to go before I got burnt out.'

Selectmen Chairman Jim O'Brien said the board is disappointed that La Vigne is leaving. O'Brien said he was unaware of La Vigne plans before he announced his resignation in a nonpublic meeting late last month.

'He really has done a fabulous job, really taking it to a new level and going above and beyond on the programming side,' O'Brien said,

Instead of filling La Vigne's current full-time position, the selectmen are considering hiring a part-time recreation director to work 30 hours a week, and another person to work 20 hours a week overseeing programs at the Slusser Senior Center.

'There's sort of two jobs' that La Vigne holds in overseeing both recreational and senior programs, O'Brien said, and his departure has allowed the board to re-examine the position. Breaking them out into two part-time positions could save the town $11,000 annually by not paying for benefits, Town Administrator Neal Cass said.

But La Vigne said he doubts a 30-hour-a-week recreational director will be able to handle all that he does. He said he typically works 50 to 60 hours a week.

'I would love to see them hire another 40-hour, full-time position . . . and keep it going,' he said.

Louise Carr, chairwoman of the Hopkinton Recreation Committee, agreed.

'If you're hourly, you're not going to want to come in and work the Fourth of July. Why would you work nights and weekends if you're not going to get paid for that?' Carr said. 'I see the community as a whole getting hurt by this.'

O'Brien said the positives of having a part-time employee focused entirely on the senior center, an area in which La Vigne has sought more assistance, could outweigh the loss of a full-time recreation director.

'We understand we're going to be giving some things up,' O'Brien said. It's not financially feasible to keep paying a full-time recreation director while adding a part-time employee for senior programming, he said.

The selectmen have asked La Vigne to compile a list of programs that might be cut by turning the recreation director into a part-time position. La Vigne is set to present the potential cuts at Monday's selectmen meeting and encouraged residents to come out and make their voices heard.

La Vigne said he'll miss juggling everything from hip-hop dance classes to kayak outings.

'I get to do a new thing every day,' he said.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)


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