The Union Recorder

October 8, 2013

Fees part of recreation revamp

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County Recreation Committee met once again Monday focusing on the County Recreation Department's fee schedule.

Establishing specific written policy removing staff discretion from all business is a main goal, according to District 4 County Commissioner Henry Craig.

“The only way there is an exception should be if the (County Commission) chooses to change the written policy,” Craig said Monday.

County Manager Ralph McMullen, Commissioner Tommy French, District 2, Recreation Director Bill McNair and Assistant Recreation Director Traci Rollins went over the current fee list, as well as reduced rates for non-profits, faith based organizations and employees.

Dialogue moves on to the County Commissioners for future consideration and true policy change. County Attorney David McRee will draft up proper policy and procedure language before any formal motion to vote.

• Does price cover actual cost?

The county could elevate the hourly rate at numerous recreation facilities, such as the pool pavilion and the gymnasium.

“We need to make sure we are getting as much return on investment as we can,” Craig said.

Currently, the recreation department charges $75 for one court and $150 for both courts per hour. It's $300 for 10 hours for one court rental and $600 for all courts lasting the same time frame.

“My first impression is that $75 per hour is a bargain for that much space,” Craig said. “I'm speculating because we don't know what things cost yet.”

McMullen said heating and cooling costs are substantial because the gym building was constructed long ago. 

“Six hundred dollars for renting that floor is a big time bargain,” the county manager said.

The air conditioning isn't always on. Rollins said the heating and cooling starts when someone rents the gym, which only happens once per month on average.

The county did spend $100,000 on recreation electricity use last year.

Craig said the current rate should stand for community enrichment sporting activity, but the county should charge the “commercial going rate” for a wedding reception or other event.

The pool pavilion costs $50 to rent and gets used twice monthly. Again the committee agreed that price could be too low.

“By the time you go down there and clean the bathrooms and pick up the trash they leave and rearrange outdoor furniture, you've spent more than $50,” Craig said. “Is this something we should charge a fair rate for at least our cost? Somewhere in the cost in all of this is the wear and tear on the facilities.”

The Collins P. Lee Center fee is $15 per hour and $100 for all day.

French said the Harrisburg center is used a decent bit though he doesn't see a justified fee hike in its current state.

“It would be used a lot more if it was a better facility. It's been neglected for so long and that's why you aren't getting the use,” French said.  “It's hard to go up on the price because it's not a very well kept place.”

The standing price for the main parking lot is $800 for a major event.

McMullen and McNair said certain organizations question that price.

Past commissioner boards were against past activities such as car sales that brought revenue but no community enrichment. 

“The facility was constructed for recreation purposes and once you start getting outside of that then you need to set your fees high,” McMullen said.

• Field use up, revenue should be too

Baldwin County recreation fields carry a $125 per day price tag.

French said “out-of-towners” should pay more, but the commissioner is wary of scaring tournaments away to competitors like Dublin with more expense levied.

Craig is “very surprised at how well the facilities are being used.”

“We are finally starting to get the teams back into Baldwin,” French said. “We don't want to run them off now.”

McMullen wants to add a lighting fee for night use.

The most expensive field costs $13 per hour, while smaller ones costs between $8 and $5 hourly to illuminate.

“It costs us more,” McMullen said. “We don't need to bring in less just because it's night time.”

Rollins suggested instituting a $25 per field lighting addition.

• Price reductions for non-sporting use

In the past, the commissioners have dropped rates for a non-profit use. The recreation committee is looking at an across the board policy applying a 25 percent rate discount for non-profits.

“I'd propose that with the requirement they be able to spell out how they contributed the 25 percent back to the community,” Craig said Monday.

To attain this discount, the group would need proper registration with the state or be a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Faith based organizations or churches in Baldwin County would receive the same 25 percent reduction per Monday's proposal. An exception paragraph for a “health-related” benefit event could also be in the new recreation policy. 

Employee discounts of 50 percent came across the table.

Rollins said limiting the employee reduction to the classrooms, banquet room or pavilion facilities is realistic. 

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