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New park fees discussed by BOC
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Jose Barrera, left, and Jessie Ban play basketball Tuesday at the Central Park Recreation Center. Starting in April, the center will be open less on the weekends to save money. - photo by Autumn McBride

Forsyth County Parks and Recreation facilities may soon have new fees for several different amenities.

A proposal to change fees was discussed at a Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session on Tuesday, where Parks and Recreation Director Jim Pryor said the change would bring some facilities costs more in line with those in other areas and would help generate revenue, particularly in light of the impact of COVID-19 on the budget. 

“When I originally met with the finance committee in April [as part of the annual budget process], we were talking about what possibly could be cut, and I brought a different angle to things in saying, ‘we haven’t looked at our fees in a long time, and maybe instead of cutting items and cutting programs, we could possibly look at changing our fee schedule and increasing our revenue a little bit to be able to fund some things,’” Pryor said.

Pryor said the proposed changes would go toward the maintenance and operations of parks and recreation facilities. 

“We feel like bonds and SPLOST are used to build facilities, and it gives us facilities that other people don’t have, but we still have to operate the building and with our three recreation centers, we spend over $1 million a year just operating those buildings, keeping the doors open and staff in them,” he said. 

No decision was made during the meeting, meaning the proposed costs were not finalized. The item will come back to commissioners, likely at the Tuesday, Sept. 8 work session

Pryor said he looked at parks systems in surrounding counties – which he sad can be difficult due to the offerings, financials and other factors of other parks departments – and looked at fees that had not been touched in some time, including some that have not been changed since 2007. 

“We took this model, and we put our 2019 numbers into play just to see what the impact would be on our revenues if we went by this, and our proposed plan with our 2019 numbers would increase our revenue projection by $390,000,” he said.

Among the proposed are changing the current fees for recreation centers to a new model offering daily visits, a Fitwalk plan to use indoor walking tracks for those 14 and older at $20 annually, FitRec memberships to use the tracks, cardio and weight equipment and indoor sports, a FitClass program for fitness classes and a FitPlus plan that includes everything

The FitRec, FitClass and FitPlus programs would be offered for intervals of one, three or six months or one year. Annually, the FitRec program would be $100, FitClass $150 and FitPlus $200.

Guests 55 and older would receive a 10% discount on costs.

Those under 14 can use any gymnasiums of the walking tracks with an adult.

Other proposed changes include:

• Increasing athletic fees from booster clubs from $20 per participant for county residents and $150 for non-residents to $30 and $175, respectively;

• Rentals of community buildings from $150 a day to $250 a day;

• Moving to a sperate fee structure on weekdays and weekends for camping rentals at Shady Grove Campground, with tent rentals going from $18 to $20 and $22 on weekends, sites with 30-amp power hookups to $28 during the week and $30 on weekends and 50-amp sites to $30 during the week and $32 on weekends.

• Upping boat ramp permit from $5 to $10 for daily permits, $40 to $60 for annual permits and $20 to $48 for annual permits for those 55-plus. 

Another change would reverse an existing policy requiring non-residents paying twice as much as those that live in the county, which Pryor said had not impacted all areas of the county in the same way. 

“We’ve had some issues with that,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of programs that were canceled just because we didn’t get the numbers to make those programs, and in the south and the west, we’re okay, that really doesn’t affect us much, but in the north side of the county and the central, our usership of that facility had dropped tremendously when it comes to programs.”

Instead, the proposal would move the non-resident fee to be the normal fee plus an additional 20% for all uses.