Playhouse change means layoff for Bennis

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The takeover of the Montauk Playhouse by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department will make the cavernous community center more accessible and usable but it will also put at least one town employee out of work, town officals say.

The Town Parks Department officially took over the management of the building over the past weekend, after the Town Board approved the change last month. The switch meant that the Montauk Playhouse department, which was created by the town in 2006 to operate the newly renovated facility, was dissolved and department head Virginia “Ginny” Bennis was laid off.

Councilman Pete Hammerle, who oversaw the multimillion-dollar renovation project, said that Ms. Bennis had done a great job getting the center up and running but that financial efficiency made handing over the building to parks and recreation a necessity.

Mr. Hammerle said that in order for Ms. Bennis’s department to have been able to manage the expanded access and programs that Montauk residents were calling for, the town would have had to hire more staff.

“The parks department already has the staff,” Mr. Hammerle said. “Instead of spending money on more staff we can use that money for more programming. It’s working out very well.”

Ms. Bennis’s salary was approximately $70,000 a year. She could not be reached for comment this week.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of pressure to get the building open and Ginny did a wonderful job at that,” he said. “But now the emphasis is on getting as many programs and activities in there as they possibly can.”

Mr. Hammerle said the Montauk Playhouse board of directors has asked that the building’s gymnasium and conference rooms be made available more frequently for programs and recreational activities and that open gym time be offered to the public when other programs are not being held.

The building currently houses the town’s adult day care and senior nutrition programs and the Montauk Child Care Center but the large gymnasium has usually been open for only a few hours a week.

Supervisor Bill McGintee said that he regretted having to lay off Ms. Bennis but that the better operation of the facility dictated the change in directorship.

“She didn’t come in as a recreation specialist, she came in as a facilities manager and she did an excellent job,” he said. “If I had another position to move Ginny into, I would do so.”

michael wright

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