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By Dan Rudy 

Parks and Rec okays rate change rollout

 


Rate changes being adopted by Wrangell’s Parks and Recreation Department will be phased in over the next three years, its board members decided at their monthly meeting Nov. 19.

Beginning in the new year, corporate-rate discounts for use of the community pool will be phased out. The way year-round passes are currently priced, individual passes cost $300 for unaffiliated community members, while those employed at a participating business or agency can purchase passes at a rate linked to the size of their workplace. The difference can be quite stark, with an employee of Alaska Island Community Services able to buy a pass for only $18.

Parks and Rec Director Amber Al-Haddad argued the fee schedule is flawed in this regard, and the board had agreed to do away with it entirely at its previous meeting. Current contracts for the corporate rate will be allowed to expire over the next year, bringing users onto a more even keel by the time other rate changes take effect.

In 2016 and 2017, rates across the board will be incrementally changed to reflect the new fee schedule adopted at the board’s October meeting. Most fees and rates will see a rise, but some costs will actually decrease.

For instance, the change will see reductions in the community center’s hourly gym rental fee rate. In addition, a part-time staff member will be kept on hand to manage gym use.

Following that, the rates will be adjusted for inflation with an automatic 2.5 percent increase every two years. The department will keep an eye on usage statistics after the rollout and if necessary make adjustments as needed.

“We can always change it,” Al-Haddad said. The four board members present agreed after some discussion, voting to approve the concept.

The board also volleyed a bit over the future of the public tennis courts. Currently Wrangell maintains two, at Shoemaker and Volunteer parks.

“It would be nice to have one good tennis court,” said Haig Demerjian, while finding another use for the other. Ideas include changing one into a basketball or volleyball court.

“I agree that one is plenty,” said Cindy Martin.

Going over public comments received earlier in the month, opinion seemed divided over which tennis court people would prefer to use.

Board members considered one option, making the court by Shoemaker interchangeable-use with a removable net, but the logistics seem problematic. The net itself would be an issue, weighing the benefits of having a net light enough to safely move around yet hardy enough not to need constant replacement.

Board members pointed out the court at Shoemaker is seldom used, and though its surface is in better condition it also tends to get a slick coating from the nearby sea.

“All of us agree that if we’re going to have a tennis court we should focus on the one at Volunteer,” said Grover Mathis, chairing the meeting.

However, they accepted that repairing the crack at the Volunteer Park court could be expensive, though board members at the time could not say how much they could expect it to cost. The item was tabled for future discussion as the department looks at repair options.

Also approved was the department’s list of capital projects, some of which have been included on the Wrangell Assembly’s list. Repairs to Wrangell’s ailing pool and facility improvements topped both lists, with a projection of about $2 million currently being considered. Al-Haddad told the board she will be receiving a more detailed estimate next month.

“We will be able to get that solidified once we get that report,” she said of the estimate.

Other project targets of note include $100,000 for life and safety improvements at the community center, which includes bringing its fire alarm system up to code. At the moment, the system only uses manual switches to sound the alarm, and lacks any sort of visual aids for the hearing-impaired.

Trail extension for the Volunteer Park loop has been estimated at $95,000 and improvements to the park itself at around $100,000. The latter amount could go toward some of a number of improvements, whether it be the ballfield, tennis court or other amenities.

“We should be having that discussion and setting goals for ourselves,” Al-Haddad told the board. Over the next month board members will consider the listed items and set priorities in advance of its next meeting, Dec. 3.

Parks and Rec has already been budgeted $18,000 of the $50,000 estimated it will need to replace locker bays at the pool. A bay of lockers in each changing room has already been updated.

The board also took time to choose its officers following October’s election. Bob Lippert was chosen to serve as the board’s president and Demerjian its vice-president.

 

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