The question on whether Recreation District No. 2/3 should charge for travel teams and other groups to use its facilities and how much they might charge was passionately debated at Monday night's board meeting.
The move was to address accusations of possible ethical violations raised by a field manager at the Westside Girls Softball Complex having taken payments from traveling softball teams to open the park at night for practices.
"Most sports facilities charge fees for private organizations to use their facilities, so I started calling some of them to see what kind of fees they charge," Board Member Ivy Bernard said. "We have to have someone there to watch over and run the facility and we have to pay them, so fees would cover that."
Bernard said he called three sports complexes, Youngsville, Broussard and Chappapeela in Hammond, and explained that Youngsville and Broussard charge $250 a day per field and $30 an hour for security when "outside entities" use their sports parks. However, members of the public took issue with the idea of charging for facilities that are paid for by taxpayer dollars.
Jeff Montichek, whose children play on travel teams, opposed the idea because many of the travel teams were made up of kids whose parents paid taxes toward the parish's recreation facilities. The recreation district board argued that they needed to find a way to pay the people working on the fields, while Montichek said there were other options like changing operating hours so the fields closed at later.
"You seem dead set on charging people to use these facilities. The district is sitting on $4-5 million and I know we need that for other things, but are we not paying enough taxes so that you gotta hit us with fees for things we're already paying for?" Montichek said. "Provide normal operating hours... If you want to charge for weekends or at 10 or 11 o'clock at night, something unusual, I see no problem, but to lock the gate and say nobody can use it unless they go through the gatekeeper is a little ridiculous."
However, Bernard said the district had to generate the money to cover the costs of having people out at the fields and part of the way to do that was with fees.
The board decided to table the discussion until its next meeting so they could look into the fees other parks charge and other options.
-- Staff Writer Dan Boudreaux can be reached at 857-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_boudreaux.