Council mulling recreation fee proposal

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Washington’s City Council wants more information before deciding whether to bring back a $30 per player fee (the amount charged prior to the City Council’s approval of the “kids play free” program) as a way of helping offset some of the costs associated with maintaining the sports facilities instead of increasing the use of tax dollars to pay for such costs.

The council, during its meeting Monday, discussed the city’s recreation fee review committee’s recommendation to return to the $30 fee. The committee’s recommendation came after it studied the issue. Council members said they specifically want information concerning how imposing the fee could affect scholarships some sports leagues provide so underprivileged children can play in those leagues.

Area sports leagues were invited to participate in the committee’s review and subsequent related meetings. All leagues participated, with the exception of basketball and Junior Babe Ruth leagues, according to a memorandum from City Manager Brian Alligood to Mayor Mac Hodges and the council. Councilman Larry Beeman pointed out the proposed $30 is a preliminary figure, one not yet set in stone.

Spokesmen for two leagues — the Optimist Club soccer league and Washington Youth Football League — expressed concerns that imposition of the $30 fee per player would result in fewer children playing sports. Ray Pippin and Keith Mitchell, representing the Washington Youth Football League, said that although their league does not currently used city sports facilities for its program, imposing the $30 fee per player could reduce the number of WYFL participants should the league at some point in the future use city sports facilities.

Patti Peebles, representing the Optimist Club soccer program, said the club understands “ it’s necessary for the fees for the maintenance of the fields and for continued use out there.” Peebles presented data regarding the soccer program to the council.

“We currently charge $30 a child. Any increase, especially if it’s $30, will double what the cost is to parents (for their children) playing in the program. I just wanted to make you aware of that,” she said.

Yolanda Parker, representing the local youth basketball league, said imposing the $30 fee likely would result in fewer children playing in the league, which had just over 400 players last season. If the city imposes the $30 fee, participating could drop by half that number, she said.

City Manager Brian Alligood told the council the issue before it is whether to impose a fee or use tax dollars to pay for maintenance of city recreation facilities, including those used by sports leagues. Council members also noted that some sports programs that use city facilities have many players who do not live in the city but use city facilities while playing sports. Their parents are not city taxpayers, city officials noted.

Alligood talked about reactions to the fee proposal.

“Some of the leagues said, ‘We get it. We understand. Our kids are probably OK with that.’ Other leagues said, ‘It’s going to be very difficult for us to do that.’ Again, this is a policy decision for this board, for this council to consider. It’s real simple math. … It’s as easy as saying you’ve got to decrease expenses or you have to increase revenues. But it’s as complicated as figuring that out,” he said. “This is the first step in that complicated step of figuring that out.”

The $30 fee per player that city staff recommends imposing recovers about 17 percent of the costs associated with the leagues using city facilities, Alligood said.

“Right now, you’re paying for all of that out of general tax dollars,” he said.

The council is expected to resume discussion of the issue at its Oct. 6 meeting.







About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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