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Lackawanna

Could Lackawanna’s softball leagues and annual festival be in trouble?

Marcia Cullens, director of parks and recreation, says she might not be able to organize Lackawanna’s biggest recreation activities this year, unless she gets some help in her office soon.

But Cullens and Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski received a frosty reception from the City Council last week when they asked for money to fund a clerk’s position for the recreation department.

The post would cost $17,650 from now through the end of the city’s current fiscal year in July.

Some Council members balked at the request during their meeting Monday, asking why the money was being sought so long after a spending plan was finalized last July.

They also pointed out that Cullens, who was appointed parks and recreation director in 2012, was able to organize softball and the festival just fine in 2013, while also implementing an extensive upgrade of many of the playgrounds.

Fourth Ward Councilman Keith E. Lewis credited Cullens with doing a “bang-up job” on the playground improvements.

“My confusion is, ‘What has changed?’ ” said Lewis. “We’re going into the next summer with the festival and softball season, minus the playground implementation.”

But Szymanski said that March through September was too busy for one person to handle everything that goes through the recreation department, which used to have a director and a clerk/secretary.

“Every office has a secretary except that one,” he said. “I don’t know how they can justify a department head not having a secretary. I don’t think they believe the department is as busy as it is.”

Cullens had served as recreation clerk before her appointment as director.

In 2013, Szymanski put pay for a clerk’s position in his proposed budget, but the Council, which has the final say over spending, removed the line in an effort to save money.

Some Council members also objected to what they considered an implied threat to end the city’s popular softball league and festival if they don’t hire a clerk.

“If we don’t have a softball league and a carnival, which are two of our biggest programs, what would we have a recreation department for?” asked Council President Henry R. Pirowski.

Some Council members agreed that Cullens might need help, but not necessarily in the form of a full-time department clerk.

They also proposed hiring a “roaming clerk” who could fill-in in various departments on an as-needed basis.

“We want to make sure we’re running as efficient as possible,” said Lewis.