The St. Helens City Council is moving forward with a new parks fees schedule, which will replace the current system of exclusive use, half day or full day reservations.
The new schedule will now consist of session reservations of three-hour blocks throughout the day for parties to sign up for online, beginning in September. Parks and fields that will use the new system include McCormick Park, Campbell Park, Godfrey Park, Columbia View Park, 6th Street Park and fields near the Recreation Center, often referred to as the Boise Fields. The system includes all the parks’ associated fields as well as the Veterans Pavillion and the Gazebo Amphitheater for McCormick Park and Columbia View Park, respectively.
While current fees range from $10 to $40 for different half- or full day uses, the new system ranges from $5 to $25 per session depending on the field.
The schedule change also includes an increase in lighting charges from $10 to $25, which reflects the demand charges and light increases from the Columbia River People’s Utility District (CRPUD), which have incurred over the last several years, but have not yet been accounted for in parks fees, according to the resolution. Individuals who book the fields will have to pay the lighting fees for evening practice sessions.
At the city council’s regular session on Aug. 21, Jeff Kroll, president of the St. Helens Softball League, along with Andrea Heart, registration manager, requested the city be lenient with their organization regarding fees on the softball fields near the recreation center. Kroll suggested they have their fee be waived at least partially.
Kroll said he put a lot of hours into maintaining the fields with no monetary compensation, and presented the councilors with evidence of hours worked as well as photos showing before and after pictures of the states of the fields.
Kroll said he put 165.5 hours into maintaining the fields last season, and that the league had spent $5,000 of their own money in 2015 to have TNT Construction come in and level the field.
“We’re not asking to waive entirely, [just] waiving the fees for Boise. We’ve taken care of that 100% exclusively,” Kroll said.
He proposed to the council to come up with a plan to take a certain amount of dollars off of the fees in exchange for volunteer hours worked maintaining fields.
Council President Doug Morten said he appreciated Kroll’s efforts and made his own recommendations. Morten said he supported the parks commission and city staff’s decision to do away with a blanket lease, and instead using session permits.
“I think it can work, if it is through the permit process, I think it can work better than the lease,” Morten said, adding the flexibility of allowing different teams to use the field would be in the city’s hands rather than in the softball league’s.
“We’ve got to find some way to encourage your involvement and utilize some monetary concessions as well, and that’s my take,” Morten said.
Mayor Rick Scholl added that one of the primary purposes of the new fees schedule was to have an automated process online, and the softball league would still be required to do that.
Scholl also said the council would continue to work out an equitable process for fees for the league.
“We’re going to talk about the fee scheduling as a whole later. Your efforts are appreciated,” Scholl said.