BROOKSVILLE — In three 5-0 votes Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission rejected parking fees at boat ramps, a proposed $20-per-player fee for youth or adult sports leagues, and boosting fees for using park pavilions.
"Anything we do today will impact the (Parks and Recreation) Department," Parks and Recreation Director Pat Fagan told the board. "If the fees do not go through, we'll have to look at personnel options."
Fagan said up to four jobs could be cut out of the department. He and county Recreation Manager Harry Johnson, representing the Parks and Recreation Department, presented their proposals to the board, about a month after they said they would send out letters to each Hernando County-based league with options.
One option was to amend the contracts the leagues sign with the county to commit adults to perform hours of volunteer maintenance work on the fields they use.
This would include basic tasks such as cleaning bathrooms, picking up trash, mowing lawns and raking infields.
Johnson said that 13 of the leagues were against the $20 fee, while 11 said they didn't mind it. However, the population of the 11 outnumbered the 13.
Also, the majority of those leagues said they would not be able to provide volunteers to work at the parks.
"Getting volunteers would really help alleviate some of the tightness we are experiencing," Fagan said. All five commissioners agreed with Fagan and Johnson that "people will need to step up if they want the parks to retain their upkeep."
Many boaters also showed up to oppose the launch fees. Citing gas prices and bait costs, they applauded when the fee was voted down.
As for increasing the pavilion fee, Fagan and Johnson were unable to give adequate reason behind one pavilion being raised from $20 to $55 and another from $25 to $30.
Fagan said his staff talked to other counties about how they have handled their budget crises and what they did for fees.
"Just because they do this in another county doesn't mean we have to do it in Hernando County," Commissioner Diane Rowden said. "I can't support this, and I haven't in the past."
Very few showed up to speak in favor of the fees, though one parks maintenance manager said this issue has given the department "a black eye" by making "Pat and Harry look like the bad guys."
"We did kind of feel like the bad guys here," Johnson said. "We understand people are struggling financially. We all are. The intent was to provide the quality of service out there and we've already made cuts. It's not like this is the first option.
"It felt like we were defeated today. Our people get to use the pavilions for next to nothing and they will continue to for the next year or so."
Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-1771.