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By Dan Rudy 

Parks and Rec proposes rate changes

 


After several years of remaining unchanged, fee rates for using Wrangell’s Parks and Recreation facilities may soon see a readjustment. At its monthly meeting Oct. 1, the Parks and Rec Advisory Board examined a new fee schedule being developed.

Explaining the proposed rates, board member Haig Demerjian said the current rates were last adjusted in 2010. Looking at rates for other communities in Southeast Alaska, he found that Wrangell’s rates tended to be considerably lower than the regional average.

“We’re kind of toward the bottom,” he said. For example, rates for annual passes to public pool facilities were on average 51 percent higher in other communities than what Wrangell charges.

While it is expected to help better regulate facility usage, the decision to revise rates is largely a budgetary one. The pool’s operating budget this year was approved for $366,000, largely drawn from the general fund. Dues and fees bring in about $30,000.

By re-evaluating rates, Parks and Rec. Director Amber Al-Haddad explained “we’re helping take some of the burden off of the taxpayer and shift it over to our users.” In shifting costs back toward the users, the readjustment has also had to find ways to make costs more equitable among user groups.

One large problem the board identified is the pool’s current policy of offering “corporate discounts” at rates pegged to contracted organizations’ employee numbers. For example, an annual pass for an adult currently stands at $300. Employees of Alaska Waters – which the department lists as having five employees eligible for the discounted pass – can get the same thing for $100.

The way the policy is arranged, having more employees means receiving a higher discount. The 143 employees of Alaska Island Community Services make up the largest corporate pool, and so enjoy the lowest rate for an annual pass, at $18.88. Other major groups benefitting from the policy are Wrangell Public Schools and Wrangell Medical Center, both at less than $30 per annual pass.

Pool users belonging to corporate membership organizations contributed $9,100 this year for their passes. Had they all bought annual passes at the regular rate, Parks and Rec calculates the revenue generated would be better than $43,000.

Board members felt doing away with the corporate

rate would be a good idea,

both to raise revenue and

promote more equitable treatment.

“I think it’s very unfair to seniors or those who are no longer working,” board member Cindy Martin opined. In a 4-0 vote, the Board moved to phase the policy out once current contracts for the discounts expire.

The rates for different

durations of pool passes would also be readjusted more equitably across the board, mostly rising but also falling in places. An adult yearlong pass would rise from $300 to $400, but the youth and senior month-long passes would drop from $40 to $32, for example.

The public pool was not the only problem for Parks and Rec. Al-Haddad explained that current usage policies at the community center need to change. The gym does not

currently have any regular staff, and its doors were routinely being left unlocked. Fees for its use were not being collected, unscheduled usage had become an issue, and she reported lights and even faucets were being left on overnight.

Looking at the direct expenses involved in main

taining the facility, Al-Haddad

recommended lowering rates for use of the community

center’s gym, classroom and kitchen facilities in most cases. She reported having already

put out advertisements looking for flexible-scheduled staff to help run the place, and that

the locks on the facility’s doors would be changed with access better regulated.

Other rates to change would include shelter rentals and recreational registration. Some rises, like for use of the RV park, would need to be

accompanied by site

improvements. In addition to approving the changes, the Board elected to hold a public hearing on the new rates in City Hall at 6 p.m., Oct. 22. A packet containing the full rate schedule and its proposed changes will be available for public perusal beforehand at the City Hall library.

The board also decided to continue tabling drafting a memorandum of understanding with Parks and Recreation facilities’ in-kind user groups, such as little league baseball and the local swim club. Such groups do not pay to use these amenities, but instead assist with their upkeep.

“I do think it’s important to have that pretty soon,” Al-Haddad told board members.

Board members have also been making revisions to the department’s policies and procedures manual, updating sections and eliminating redundancies.

“It’s still a draft,” said Michael Brown, a board

member working on the revision. The next step of the review process will be to

determine whether any of

the manual’s language conflicts with the Borough Municipal Code. Progress on the

draft will be reviewed at

the Board’s next meeting, Nov. 19.

 

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