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City decision to bring in higher park and sport field fees could greatly impact minor baseball

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
April 12th, 2016

The rising cost of parks maintenance is forcing the City of Nelson to institute user fees and charges for the use of its green spaces, a move that will significantly impact some city groups.

With a bill of over $300,000 annually for the maintenance of parks and sports fields, city council took steps Monday night at its regular council meeting to help bring in revenue to offset those costs.

Once proposed changes to the Parks Facilities Rates and Parks bylaws have passed into law ― likely at the next council meeting ― users of the sports fields will pay by the hour, instead of the former per player rate.
What the city did for years was to charge youth programs for participant rates (per player). But that formula did not help defray the cost of field maintenance.

In those youth sport programs the same fee would be charged whether a field was booked for one hour or 100 hours, there was block booking of field time with field time potentially not being used at times.

So the city is in the process of changing it to a straight hourly rate, said Frances Long, city director of corporate services.

“So then the used groups need to clearly consider the amount of field time that they are actually using, so then the rest of the time the field is available,” she said.

Minor baseball was not paying for its field use, but the registration money was being investing into fields. The group’s executive sent city council an email stating their plight as one of the groups greatly affected by the change, and asked for a meeting to discuss the change before it was passed.

“But we think if there is some capacity for them to raise money to put into fields, then they should be able to pay for the rental of the fields,” said city manager Kevin Cormack.

Representatives of Nelson Minor Baseball and the city are expected to sit down in the next few weeks in an attempt to understand the financial situation the city group may be in, and figure out how to best deal with it.

The city’s Parks Facilities Rates and Parks bylaws have been revisited, updated  and combined into a single bylaw which was presented ― and passed ― for first three readings on Monday night at the regular council meeting.  

In  addition, the associated fees and charges (formerly contained in the Parks Facilities Rates Bylaw) have been transferred to the city’s Fees and Charges Bylaw.

Penalties specific to the Parks bylaw have been placed in Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw and all three bylaws were presented for first readings concurrently ― and all three subsequently passed.   

Parks facilities

City staff completed a comprehensive review of the city’s park rates, including comparisons to other municipalities. The two primary goals of the review were to have rates that reflect the cost of maintaining the fields, and to change the rate schedule to require all parties booking playing fields to book them based on an hourly or daily rate to mitigate groups block booking field time.

The rate schedule includes separate rates for commercial groups (camps not associated to a community youth organization), adult groups (slow pitch, ultimate frisbee) and youth groups (Nelson Youth Soccer, Minor Baseball, School District, Rugby).  

The commercial rate reflects the true hourly cost to maintain the fields based on an eight-hour day, seven days per  week for 27 weeks (costs for labour, equipment, materials, insurance, utilities).  

The adult rate is 55 per cent of the commercial rate and the youth rate 65 per cent of the adult rate.  New to the revised rate schedule is a daily rate.

The daily rate provides that the maximum number of hours a group will be charged for field use in a single day is 6.5 hours.

Historically, the school district has not been charged for use of city fields, under the revised schedule the school district will be required to book the fields and pay the youth rate. 

Based on the 2015 bookings, if the schedule had been in place in 2015 the School District would have paid $3,334.05 in field bookings.

The new bylaw

The city’s Parks Facilities Rates Bylaw was enacted in 1998 and rates were last amended in 2010. The city’s Parks Bylaw was enacted in 1968 and was updated to  allow for bylaw enforcement ticketing in 2013.  

Key areas that have been significantly updated in the new bylaw include:

  • Definitions expanded for greater clarity in interpretation;
  • Specific regulations have been expanded to address current trends and concerns;
  • New section streamlines rentals of parks and community facilities; and
  • New section addresses requirements specific to parks special event permits.

No significant changes have been made with regard to the city’s tourist park.

Other changes include the prohibition of anyone smoking at or in a park or community facility.

Public notification of this bylaw is not required. Once adopted by council, this bylaw will be posted on the city’s website. 

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