2012-04-19 / Front Page
Recreation fees expected to be back before council
JACKSON — Residents and Township Council members were frustrated with the way an ordinance that would change various summer recreation fees was handled during the April 10 council meeting, ultimately causing the scheduled second reading of the ordinance to be canceled.
The ordinance, which was initially expected to amend the portion of the Jackson municipal code that deals with recreation event fees, proposed fee increases in pickleball (paddle tennis) and summer camp, plus the introduction of a new tournament fee for the use of municipal fields, as well as fees in other programs.
Although the council produced the ordinance, which included the new fees, after reviewing those changes, council members had a change of heart.
“We are right now in a recession in this country. We have issues in our own municipality with graffiti and break-ins,” Councilman Mike Kafton said. “I think it is very important for this administration to make sure we provide as much recreation as we possibly can … to make sure there is something for the kids to do in the summer.”
At the April 10 meeting, Councilman Scott Martin produced a revised list of fees and said the fees were kept consistent with last year after he discussed them with Department of Recreation head Joeylynn Zapata.
“I had the same concern” as the other council members, Martin said. “Given this economy, we don’t want to be upping fees unnecessarily to deter people from signing up for various recreation programs. We want our kids to be active.”
Although a number of fees that had been increased in the ordinance were rolled back to the 2011 level, the 2012 Jackson summer camp retained an increase from $350 to $500 in an effort to keep the program running in a self-sufficient manner.
The increase in the camp fee came about after parents requested the camp run an extra hour, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., five days a week. The camp was also extended from six to seven weeks.
Other issues, including the rising price of gas, prompted the increase, according to municipal officials.
A proposed change that dealt specifically with tournament use of the fields and would have raised the user fee from $500 to $750 per four-hour session per field was eliminated. A fee for field lighting per hour was also eliminated.
“Tournaments run all weekend, so you are talking about a lot of money there. This was going to cost the leagues tens of thousands of dollars and effectively double their fees [to participants],” Martin said.
Officials said the suggested tournament field fees were recommended by a former administration staff member.
Although recreation fee increases were not voted on at the most recent meeting, the issue also became about the way the ordinance had been handled by the council in general.
Councilwoman Bobbie Rivere and Kafton took umbrage with the way the new fees were verbally introduced to the record, saying that method did not allow for enough transparency.
“What’s happening here tonight is not how I agreed to do business,” Rivere said during the meeting.
“I don’t appreciate being handed this information this evening. That’s not the way we do business here,” Kafton said.
Martin, however, said the new numbers had to be approved in a timely fashion in order to make sure the summer camp would not be adversely affected by a delay.
“I was under the impression that the numbers had been changed to reflect what they should be. Upon reviewing the ordinance, I found the changes had not been made, so I reached out to the recreation director to make sure we get the numbers right, rather than delay this any further,” Martin said. “I’d rather do this once and get it right. The numbers haven’t really changed from last year.”
A new ordinance with the fees read into the record by Martin onApril 10 is expected to be introduced during the April 24 council meeting. Zapata is expected to be in attendance to discuss the increases.
— Contact Andrew Martins at firstname.lastname@example.org.