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Park rates to take small hike
Fees would bring in about $100K
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Forsyth County News
Other business

Also Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission voted to:

• Award construction of a press box at Central Park to Reliant Construction for $56,527, to be completed by June.

• Accept a grant to the parks and recreation department from the Sawnee Mountain Foundation for $39,475 to fund seasonal personnel and other program expenses. The funding stems from a settlement between the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the city of Cumming, which stipulated the money must support environmental education programs.

• Approve a five-year lease at a price of $10 per year for Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together. The nonprofit will use a county building for a safe visitation center. In the lease, the county can ask SAFFT to vacate at any time with a 90-day notice.

• Submit a request for $121 million in state fiscal year 2011 funding for three road-widening projects: Ga. 400, Bethelview Road and McGinnis Ferry Road.

• Postpone until April 13 discussion of acquiring Lanier Golf Course.

• Note: All votes were unanimous, either 5-0 or 4-0; Commissioner Jim Harrell had to leave during the meeting.

— Alyssa LaRenzie
Fees for some Forsyth County parks and recreation programs will increase this year as a way to generate more revenue.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve small fee hikes for several athletic and outdoor programs.

The increases are expected to generate about $100,000 in additional revenue, said Jerry Kinsey, director of parks and recreation.

“We think we are at the level we can charge without running people off,” he said. “We don’t want to go up anymore with our fees.”

A $5 increase per player was instituted for all youth athletic programs. The move is expected to raise about $60,000.

Athletic programs received fee increases because they are some of the most popular and don’t need much money to maintain, he said.

Nearly all outdoor program fees will rise less than $5 per person.

“We’ve put money in improving the facilities, and I don’t think we’re out of line with what neighboring communities are doing in what the county gets,” said Commissioner Brian Tam.

Erik Loedding, president of baseball at Bennett Park, agreed that a small fee increase probably wouldn’t drive anyone away.

“As long as the county’s doing park upgrades ... then I don’t think the parents have really been affected by an extra $5 or $10,” he said.

Children in youth baseball at Bennett Park pay about $128 a player, which includes county, uniform and umpire fees.

At Sharon Springs, the usual fee of $150 per player didn’t increase for the spring so its athletic association will absorb that cost, said president Chris Stovall.

Stovall said the increase from the county was justified, based on pressure he feels is put on the parks and recreation staff to maintain a great system.

“The county continues to slash and cut their budget and then expects parks and rec to continue to generate revenue to offset the bottom line for Forsyth County,” he said. “I don’t think parks and rec gets near enough credit.”

The idea to increase fees was floated as part of the 2010 budget discussions as an option to raise revenue, County Manager Doug Derrer said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell questioned whether the county should look at raising rates higher than what had been proposed.

“If you want the greatest park system, it may cost a little bit more than the average park system,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we’re charging adequate fees.”

Too much of a hike didn’t appeal to the parks and recreation board, according to Cindy Mills, its vice chairwoman.

She said that a previous year’s increase of adult athletic team rates resulted in a $7,000 loss in revenue.

In order to make that extra money, Mills thought the best route would be to hold large tournaments and events, which could bring in revenue from outside the county.

The parks board didn’t recommend charging people to enter or park at the county facilities because “we want the parks to be used,” Mills said.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds, but the money is short and our budget is decreasing,” Mills said. “I just urge y’all ... that we don’t create fees because that is a tax.”

She noted that additions of green space and the Big Creek Greenway don’t add any revenue, but they do add expense to the parks and recreation budget.

“It’s not fair to expect the athletic division to be able to raise enough money to cover all those hundreds and hundreds of acres of green space,” Mills said.

The board plans to look into creating a foundation for parks and recreation, since any donations currently go into the county’s general fund, rather than directly to the department.