Leaders of local athletic organizations spoke out at Tuesday's city council work session against the new fees that Department is now charging to use the city's athletic fields.
Several city council members also said they do not support the fees, although the council has no power to get rid of them. That decision lies with the Parks Board.
Councilman Dave Beckering, Ward 7, said he plans to draft a resolution asking for the Parks Board reconsider the fees, which teams and leagues pay for each game played on a city athletic field.
Read our earlier story: St. Charles Begins Charging Leagues to Use Athletic Fields
The St. Charles Parks Board approved the new fees in December 2010, and the fees took effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Beckering asked the Parks Department to talk to the city council about the fees and what they will be used for during the work session Tuesday.
Maralee Britton, director of the Parks Department told the council that the revenue generated from use of the athletic fields would go back into improving the athletic fields.
She said the department set the fee amounts by figuring out exactly what it costs to maintian fields, to mow an acre of grass, to prepare a field for a game. While the fees are expected to generate about $35,000 next year, it costs about $261,914 to maintain the fields.
Why Should Teams Pay to Play?
Parks Board President T.J. Slattery said the board looked at many options to find funding for improvements needed on the athletic fields. He said the board could investigate bonds or ask for a tax increase, but didn't want to do that.
"Is it fair to ask the whole city to pay for upkeep?" he said. "We didn't feel that was a good idea. We felt in order to get the concerns from the public addressed in the most expedient way possible is to put those fees in the athletic fields."
St. Charles resident Gary Whiteside said he's concerned that the fees will be passed on to families in the community, which might prevent some children from participating in athletics with their friends.
"I've talked to various programs, I've talked to the parishes. Financially it's a major impact on them," he said.
Council President Mike Klinghammer, Ward 8, said he doesn't see where this money will specifically go toward making improvements to the fields in the budget. He said he'd like to see the parks department focus less on developing new parks and more on maintaining the parks in existence.
"There's parts of the park that should be free and open, and the athletic fields are part of that," he said. "It's been the tradition in St. Charles for a long time."
Councilman Tom Besselmann, Ward 2, sponsors a local softball team and said most of the teams are comprised of volunteer coaches and are nonprofit organizations.
"I just can't see the need for charging a fee like this," he said.
Councilwoman Laurie Feldman, Ward 3, served as a liaison to the Parks Board for several years. She said she's never seen such a fiscally responsible group and would support its decision to implement fees.
Ward 4 Election May Be in November
Beckering said he'd like to hold the election for Ward 4 city council seat in conjunction with the general election in November.
Bob Kneemiller, who won reelection to the Ward 4 seat last April, resigned as councilman after Thanksgiving. Mayor Sally Faith appointed Mary West, who formerly held the seat, as a replacement.
The council still has to formally approve legislation to set the election date.
Council Decides Against Remodeling Council Chambers
Council members opted not to remodel the city council chambers after estimates for the redesign came in higher than anticipated.
Although funding has been in the budget for renovating city hall for many years, council members were concerned about how it would appear to the community if the chambers were renovated when other items fell victim to budget cuts.
The council already has spent some money on the project by hiring an architect to design various options. One redesign would have added additional storage space for council members, a ramp to make the dais handicap accessible and another meeting room on the fourth floor.