County Discusses New Fees For Sports Fields

 

October 17, 2016



New fees that would impact groups using the county’s sports fields that were scheduled to begin Jan. 1 are likely to be suspended until the Board of Commissioners can assess whether it supports them or wants to modify them.

Last week, commissioners discussed the new fees during their regular meeting.

The scheduled new fees were aimed at any group that wanted to reserve the county’s sports fields for a specific time.

Groups are currently not charged for reserving the fields.

The fields would continue to be available — free of charge — on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Carleen Dixon, the county’s Parks and Recreation Department director, in a presentation to commissioners about fees in general.

The new fees include charging hourly and full-day rates for using the fields.

If the fees were implemented, it would mean the Transylvania Youth Soccer Association (TYSA), for example, would be charged during its spring season $2,000 for practice time for all its teams and $550 for game time, Dixon told commissioners.

During the fall season, TYSA would be charged another $1,100 for practice and $600 for games.

Dixon said staff had met with the groups to work out how many hours they used the fields, so the groups could budget accordingly before the fees were put in place.

Dixon said fee amounts in general for Parks and Recreation services and facilities, including the gym and Silvermont grounds, have changed little over the years and not all fees were being charged.

Certain other fee changes were approved for the 2015 fiscal year.

The fees are needed, Dixon said, to offset the cost of operating and maintaining the fields and facilities.

The recent Parks and Recreation study pointed out that the cost recovery for the county is currently 0.5 percent of operating expenses.

The national standard is around 30 to 35 percent in recovery costs from fees.

During the past 10 years, Dixon said, parks and recreation departments across the country have been looking at cost-recovery models and weighing the benefits of certain programs to the community.

“We are definitely below the average,” she said referring to the county’s 0.5 percent cost recovery.

Commissioner Larry Chapman said recreation is for the community and is essentially paid by the community through property taxes.

He said he doesn’t want organizers of youth soccer, football and other sports to become “bean counters,” trying to collect money to pay the fees.

“If money is the issue, we need to put that in the budget and quit worrying about nickel and diming our citizens,” Chapman said.

He said he doesn’t have a problem with charging fees on “non-routine” events or on others who want to reserve a facility.

Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins suggested a way to address Chapman’s concerns would be to “categorize” certain uses and set different costs for different categories of users.

Hawkins highlighted, however, the county’s current cost recovery model.

“We are not below average,” he said. “We are not even in the same universe. The reality of government in the 21st century, it seems to me, is that people are going to pay fees. They pay fees almost across every department.”

Dixon said groups could be categorized and the county could set different fees based on the organization.

Commissioner Kelvin Phillips said he agreed with Chapman. Phillips said he used to be a youth sports coach and didn’t have to pay fees for the field.

He said “taxation” is the fee that residents already pay, but he did understand charging fees for certain scheduled events.

Commissioner Page Lemel said she’d like to understand more about the different youth sports groups who charge those who take part in their particular sport and use county facilities but don’t pay any fees.

Dixon suggested it goes back to how the county wants to categorize groups, whether they are nonprofit or a private business.

Dixon said she doesn’t want TYSA and other groups to “struggle,” because they provide the kind of services her department can’t right now.

“We don’t have the resources,” she said. “They are essential here.”

Commissioner Jason Chappell said more time is needed to study the issue, so commissioners can give staff direction.

County Manager Jaime Laughter recommended suspending putting the fee in place Jan. 1, allowing for more study.

Commissioners approved a motion to add an agenda item to its Oct. 24 meeting to consider suspending the Jan. 1 fees.

During public comment at the end of the meeting, Cody Owen, the president of Transylvania Little League, addressed commissioners.

Owen noted that youth organizations are nonprofits with hundreds of volunteers providing thousands of hours.

He referenced a statement in the recreation study.

It basically said there is no oversight by the City of Brevard and county of the sports organizations that use the city and county facilities.

These groups are “entitled,” the study said, and don’t provide funds to maintain the fields. Staff wants this to change.

Owen said he’s been called a lot of things during his involvement in youth sports, but “entitled” is not one of them.

The sports organizations have historically been partners, providing the programs, while the city and county provide facilities.

Owen went on say that the nonprofit groups were not invited to participate as a focus group in the recreation study.

He believes there is a “strategic shift in the relationship that the county is interested in pursuing with the nonprofit groups.”

Referencing what Lemel said about the nonprofits charging participants, Owen said the money is used to pay for uniforms, equipment, officiating and other things, while the nonprofits have also made facility improvements.

Owen said Little League receives no money from the county but relies on its own fees, concession revenue and sponsorships.

He said the groups need to be involved in the decisions about fees, which will impact their operating budgets

“We are organizations (and) also your constituents,” Owen said.

In other action at the meeting:

• A video explaining the ACT Work Ready Community program was shown. Transylvania County is working on becoming a certified community in the program.

The program is aimed at aiding economic development efforts in a community.

It includes having those just entering the job market and long-term employees knowing about the skills that employers want.

The program also aims at linking education and workforce development within a community, with the goal of matching individuals with specific jobs.

To become a certified community, a certain number of workers must earn the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate and a certain number of employers must recognize and accept the certification.

More than 10,000 employers nationwide support the certification. Being a certified community is also used as an economic development tool to attract new businesses

•Transylvania County won the N.C. Association of County Commissioners Workers Compensation Pool’s 2016 Safety Award for having the lowest number of claims per $1 million in payroll in the mid-size county class.

•A Veterans Day Ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, at the Courthouse Gazebo on East Main Street in Brevard.

•In her manager report, County Manager Jaime Laughter said that Smoky Mountain LME/MCO will be changing its name to Vaya Health; the county will be the first in Western North Carolina to get a screening kiosk for mental health/substance abuse — scheduled for Nov. 1 at the health department; the county jail will have a pilot “jail diversion program;” and the county will be working with regional partners on a perinatal substance abuse initiative.

Laughter also reported on the ongoing Early Childhood Initiative.

After 18 months, the school system is reporting improved kindergarten readiness, and the health department is seeing improvement on infant substance abuse.

• The county’s Planning and Community Development Department worked with the town of Rosman and Comporium to secure an $11,560 ARC grant.

It will be used to provide public Wifi at the Town Hall, Champion Pool, the Main Street/U.S. 178 intersection and the county’s recreation facility off the Old Rosman Highway.

The goal is to have the projected completed by the upcoming Rosman Christmas Parade.

•From 9 until noon, Nov. 1, the Board of Commissioners will hold a “Capital Workshop.”

The meeting is open to the public.

 
 

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