Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando calls timeout on fees to use athletic fields

BROOKSVILLE — Not even two weeks into the new fiscal year, the financial reality of increased fees for county park users has come back to smack county commissioners, prompting them to reconsider.

On Tuesday, they halted the implementation of the fees on athletic field use by the youth leagues until they can sort out their options.

While only a handful of protesters approached the commission this summer as it deliberated whether to raise fees or close parks, since the Oct. 1 increase took effect, commissioners have been flooded with protests.

Several youth sports league officials begged for relief Tuesday, insisting that any child who wants to play should be able to do so and that sports spark leadership, teach fair play and promote good sportsmanship.

Without sports available to everyone, they said, idle children will become troublemakers and lose out on important family activity time. They spoke of families with several children facing bills of hundreds of dollars to pay for their children to play and other families unable to pay the fee, disappointing their youngsters.

When the commission agreed to the fees, "We didn't realize that there would be a lot of unintended consequences with the youth leagues,'' said Commissioner Rose Rocco. "The cost is getting to be prohibitive.''

The commission also raised other fees to pay for parks and recreation but those, including parking fees at boat ramps, have not generated as much protest. Rocco said that the county might consider offering an annual fee for use of the dog park and county staffers agreed that was a good idea.

The county also continues to talk to league officials about having them help out with park maintenance for a break in the hourly fees charged for the use of athletic fields, said Ron Pianta, county planning director.

Commissioner Jim Adkins said he was unhappy with fees that kept children out of sports programs. "They're going to be active doing good things or doing bad things. That's the nature of kids,'' he said.

"The challenge we have as your staff is trying to strike a balance in the budget situation we're in and keeping the fields open … to an acceptable level,'' Pianta said. "That is a very difficult balance to strike.''

Commissioners had a variety of ideas on how to attack the problem. Commissioner Jeff Stabins announced the formation of a nonprofit to raise money to help children who could not pay the fees. He suggested that many people, including himself, had seen significant decreases in their tax bills over the past five years and should consider donating.

Stabins kicked in the first $500 for the initiative he dubbed "Play Ball Hernando.''

Commissioner Dave Russell said he believes the county should again take a look at using some of the money collected through the environmentally sensitive lands fund, an idea that died this summer as residents reminded commissioners those dollars were supposed to purchase and preserve sensitive lands.

But Russell said state land purchase programs have been good to Hernando County and using the money would only be a stopgap until the financial conditions improve. "Is that too much to ask?''

Adkins said he would agree with that. Spending those dollars to allow children to participate in sports was a better use of the money than "buying another Peck Sink park.''

The issue will come back to the commission for further discussion, likely in early November. In the meantime, the commission agreed to hold off on the fees for youth leagues to use the fields while county staff explores other revenue sources and collects additional information.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando calls timeout on fees to use athletic fields 10/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 6:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    Associated Press

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane

    Bucs

    AUTAUGAVILLE, Ala. —The screen door hangs open to Laura's Country Kitchen but the dining room is empty with no one to feed.

    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.
  3. St. Pete Pride schedule and live blog

    Special Topics

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth Avenue …

    A local business rings in Pride 2017 with some window decorations.
  4.   Jake Faria has pitched 6-1/3 innings and has allowed one run in each of this first three starts.