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Council Talks Fees For Athletic Leagues To Use Mike Chappell Park

The Carolina Beach Town Council recently voted to explore charging a fee to leagues wanting to use fields at Mike Chappell Park on Dow Road. The Council agreed the Pleasure Island Youth Baseball League has devoted time and money to improve the field and will forego any such fee for a year. 

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council held a special meeting Monday March 4, to discuss a proposed contract with Pleasure Island Youth Baseball for the use of fields at Mike Chapel Park on Dow Road.
The Council discussed cost of the league's use of the field and facilities and whether or not to charge a fee per game of $15 to cover the Town's cost.
Members of the Pleasure Island Youth Baseball Committee explained they have devoted time and resources to make improvements to the field and that very little if any Town resources will be required by the league. The Council ultimately decided to consider the leagues efforts and cost of improvements in lieu of a fee per game this year and will examine costs when planning for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis explained the Town has invested $80,000 in basketball courts and recently renovated the tennis courts and, "I look at those as investments in our parks as something that is good for the youth and the adults who want to use it. And if we have two or three hundred... people using it every night, I really have a hard time charging people."
Lewis said having a contract with leagues such as Pleasure Island Youth Baseball sets the framework of what is expected of both parties, but, "I really have a hard time with a fee schedule. If every body else in every county was charging people to use their athletic facilities I would have a different focus but I don't see them doing that."
Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell said he received input from the Council to, "Put contracts together for folks that do business with the Town. One of the things I was trying to correct was to the extent that you incur cost, you arrive at a mechanism for getting some of that cost back" including an hourly rate for staff time if the league required their services.
He said the $15 facility use fee, "Was a way to provide some income coming back because we didn't charge for lights and things of that nature and we were incurring expense there."
Shell said, "If you want to waive that fee we can certainly include that. We will follow your lead."
Lewis said, "We're not going to add additional people because kids are playing baseball in our town." He said while the Youth Baseball League handles chalking the lines for the field prior to games at their own cost, "I think no matter what we do we need to prepare the fields so anybody can use them." He said the league would not be using the fields everyday and it will be open for the public as usual.
Council member Sarah Friede said, "I think that baseball wears fields at a much different rate than say tennis or basketball. The upkeep on the field is certainly a lot different than it would be for tennis or basketball."
As for the Pleasure Island Soccer Association, Friede said, "That doesn't mean we shouldn't charge them a fee to. The Town has a half million dollars a year that it spends on electricity. Spending a ton of money on lights over there."
She said the Recreation Department, "Is consistently in the red because we are making these donations to various organizations that are using Town facilities. I think that we should charge a fee. I know the baseball folks have indicated that they made the donation of certain value of clay or whatever that they are putting on the field. I think it's fine to give them credit for that if they've got an invoice or donation slip or something showing what they put into the fields then we can certainly give them credit for that."
Lewis said the baseball league also digs out the infield, puts down clay, takes care of the grass, setting up the field and other maintenance activities spending money and time in the process.
Friede said, "To keep it playable the Town has to charge a fee because we are going to have some upkeep involved with it."
The Youth Baseball league is a non-profit organization.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said the Town is working on utilizing contracts for not just sports leagues but all activities that utilize Town resources.
He said, "We have given staff direction, not specifically at recreational sports, but at all activities... we've had 42 events last year plus all of the athletic events."
He said, "Our staff is getting pulled a hundred different directions. What we've asked Mr. Shell to do is come up with a mechanism where we can start tracking what the commitment is from the Town, what the commitment is from the group or entity or person putting on an event or program, see where the cost are, see where we can squeeze nickels out of them, where we can donate stuff. We've got budgets coming up and we are trying to understand all of that."
He said, "We don't want to be punitive" but, "Also want to answer to the other 4,000 taxpayers what we are doing to make sure we are good stewards" of tax dollars.
The Council voted unanimously to waive any facility fee for the first year to cover the cost of the improvements made by the Youth Baseball League.
The Council agreed the issue of facility fees would be a topic of discussion when planning for next years budget.