Members of the Brooksville City Council aired their thoughts about extending fee discounts to non-profit organizations that use the city’s athletic fields and courts during the panel’s Jan. 30 workshop session. Currently, athletic field and court fees range from $25 an hour for softball and football and soccer field usage to just $3 per hour for bocce, tennis, and shuffleboard court use.
According to Brooksville City Manager Ron Snowberger, the standard rates are based on actual rates applied in other jurisdictions and are calculated by the number of athletic fields and courts available, the number of people who use them, and the number of amenities such as lighting that are contained in those fields and courts.
Separate contracts outline usage fees through a private/public partnership with the non-profit Hernando Youth League (HYL) sports programs and with area high schools that use park facilities. Those contracts have been reviewed by the city, Brooksville City Manager Ron Snowberger told the panel.
“So that leads us to actual athletic fees and the standard rates that apply to the athletic fields,” Snowberger said. “If we have a nonprofit organization, we could offer a discount (rate) on that if the council is looking to do that – do we want to have a differential for-profit versus nonprofit?”
Council member Casey Thieryung said that he liked the idea of providing a discounted fee schedule provided that any ordinance creating them clearly states that groups that get the fee discounts are really nonprofits and show how they benefit the community.
“I’ve got no problem with people getting discounts over things, but I think that you need to make them clear and on paper so that if anybody else wanted them, they could get them,” Thieryung said. “Maybe they would have to build a stadium that would last 50 years, but at least it (the ordinance) would say that.”
Council member Thomas Bronson agreed. “If an organization wants to come in and rebuild our softball field or something of that nature, we’ll give you the discount,” he said. “If you make that big of a difference to help the City of Brooksville, yes, you should get benefits like that; if you don’t, if you just take, you’re not going to get those benefits.”
In response, Snowberger told the Council that nonprofits could, in fact, perform – or pay for – certain services currently carried out by Parks and Recreation staff. “The maintenance on those fields still has to be done,” he pointed out. “There’s clay that has to be brought in. We pay for that; the fields have to be mowed; we typically do that. If there is a broken gate, we typically (repair) it – the maintenance costs don’t go away just because we give a waiver or a benefit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”
Meanwhile, Council member Crista Tanner told the group that she wants to consider a discounted fee ordinance further. “I just don’t know,” she said.
Finally, Snowberger told the Council that any ordinance put before them would contain language that qualifies groups seeking a fee discount.
According to the City of Brooksville Public Information Officer (PIO) Charlene Kuhn, a proposed ordinance that would discount park athletic fields and usage fees is on the docket for consideration during the regular meeting of the City Council on March 6.