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By Dan Rudy 

Parks Board approves new fee schedule

 


Wrangell’s Parks and Recreation Board approved a new fee schedule for the upcoming fiscal year at its May 6 meeting. A workshop was held the previous week to revise a schedule draft that was rejected by the Assembly in January.

“This is what we discussed and agreed on at the workshop,” Parks and Recreation Department Director Kate Thomas explained.

“I thought our workshop last week was really productive,” said board member Holly Owens.

One of the main changes to the new schedule is a different structure for the gym and pool family rate. Under the new draft, families would pay a $583 base “couples rate” and an additional $50 for each child. This addresses the Assembly’s concerns about the previously proposed flat rate of $864 for families, with incremental increases that would bring the rate to $1200 a year by 2021. The Assembly argued this was too high for most families.

“We heard the community loud and clear and we took action,” Thomas said.

The new schedule would maintain some of the changes proposed in the previous draft, such as modest fee increases for the RV park and a general decrease in community center and facilities rentals.

The schedule also does away with the previous corporate discount rate, which had been gauged as providing larger discounts to enrolled businesses with larger workforces. The park board decided, in previous meetings, that this was an unfair system and needed to be changed. Instead, under the new schedule, participating businesses’ employees could obtain a flat five-percent discount on individual passes.

One question board members had for schedule was its definition of “businesses” as relates to discounted passes, specifically whether self-employed contractors or non-profit groups would count.

“I think we need to write this in a manageable way,” Demerjian said. After discussing their intentions, board members amended the discount to specify 501(c)3 organizations and licensed Wrangell businesses. Thomas said she would arrange to contact these entities to obtain current employee information.

The new fee structure will be submitted to the Assembly in ordinance form at its May 26 meeting, whereupon it will be subject to two public hearings before possible adoption.

For Parks’ fee assistance program, Thomas presented copies of the new application form to board members. The three-page document asks some household financial information and features an essay portion. The program is aimed at assisting households earning around $36,000 or less, just above Wrangell’s median income level according to U.S. Census information Thomas used.

In her director’s report, Thomas said she has received good feedback from high school students after conducting on-campus outreach promoting Parks Department summer staff positions and post-secondary career options.

She also reported a new intern has been taken on through July. Staci Florschutz is studying sports science at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and will be developing an exercise curriculum that includes low impact aerobics, yoga and kickboxing.

“The intention is to create a well-rounded program for people,” Thomas said.

Thomas reported the pool was currently being filled, with no signs of leakage. The new heat exchanger was put to use for the first time on May 5, and several backwashes have been completed successfully since. Thomas said she hopes the pool will reopen next week.

“That’s a big accomplishment,” Demerjian observed. The pool has been closed for substantial repairs since Dec. 18, 2014.

She also reported that no formal agreement or memorandum of understanding has been reached with the Wrangell Swim Club, but she met with the group to discuss its future pool use fees. Previously, the group paid a corporate rate to use the public facility.

Thomas recommended to the board having clubbers buy year-long passes, simplifying the issue of arranging the group’s practice schedules. She pointed out that this was the arrangement with previous groups such as the Stikine Sea Runners.

The department’s Tot Gym and Open Gym programs are drawing to a close for the summer tomorrow and on the 20th, respectively.

Board member Haig Demerjian announced he has received mixed feedback on tot gym equipment. He said parents wanted more entertaining options than the current equipment provided.

“We are exploring new equipment for that program,” Thomas said.

In April the department received a support fund of $400 from the Early Childhood Coalition, Thomas said, which will go toward purchasing new equipment and covering the program’s application fund.

 

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