Council works on budget|Board may adjust recreation fees; OKs beach-music event

Published 11:36 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington’s mayor and City Council want more information before deciding whether to adjust some fees charged by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and council members asked Phil Mobley, head of the department, to provide them with actual costs of providing some services and programs so they can better decide if fees that help pay for those services and programs need adjusting.
Fees for using the city pool and fitness center, fees charged for providing lights at baseball-softball fields and lining those fields and fees for renting facilities at the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center were discussed during the council’s budget work session Monday. Although talk centered around increasing many of those fees, some fees, particularly fees associated with the pool and fitness center, would be reduced under suggestions made by council members.
A decision on any fee adjustments likely will come before the end of June, when the city must have its next budget in place.
Councilman Gil Davis expressed concern that some recreation-related fees charged by the city do not cover actual costs for providing a service or program. Davis said the current $10 fee to line a baseball field should be raised to $20 to at least cover what it costs the city to pay an employee to do the work.
Councilman Archie Jennings warned that increasing some fees could price the city out of attracting users of its top-quality sports facilities bringing lucrative tournaments to the city. Such tournaments result in visitors spending time and money in the city, he said.
Jennings said the city needs to find a compromise that allows the city to charge fees that helps it recover recreation-related costs without increasing fees to the point where people don’t use the city’s recreational facilities or use similar facilities elsewhere.
In other business, the council gave its approval for a promoter to bring a beach-music festival to Washington’s waterfront from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 13. That approval included permission to close the parts of Water and Bonner streets from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. the day of the festival.
The Little Washington Beach Music Festival would be organized by John Moore and Billy Dunn, who have organized a similar festival in Greenville each year for the past six years. Eventually, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront would assume responsibility for organizing the festival, which would be a fundraiser for DWOW, Ross Hamory, DWOW president, told the council. Until then, DWOW would receive a percentage of the profits from the festival. Area nonprofit groups that help sell tickets for the festival would receive some of the ticket-sale revenue, Hamory said.
Although alcohol would not be sold at the festival, festival-goers would be allowed to bring coolers containing alcoholic beverages to the festival site, Hamory said.
The festival would feature four bands, he said.