Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

City looking at increased fees for parks and recreation to balance department’s budget

Josh Istas, KU jr., Omaha, Nebr, and Tully Corcoran, Lawrence, exercise Thursday, April 2, 2009 at the Lawrence Community Building 11th and Vermont. The city is considering adding more fees to Parks and Recreation department services.

Josh Istas, KU jr., Omaha, Nebr, and Tully Corcoran, Lawrence, exercise Thursday, April 2, 2009 at the Lawrence Community Building 11th and Vermont. The city is considering adding more fees to Parks and Recreation department services.

April 2, 2009

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City considers charging for rec center use

Lawrence residents will be asked whether they would be willing to pay for parks and recreation services to avoid cutbacks. Enlarge video

Past Event
Parks and Recreation forum

  • When: Thursday, April 16, 2009, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Where: Lawrence High School, 1901 Louisiana St., Lawrence
  • More on this event....

When you pump that iron at city recreation centers, you might need to pump your wallet a bit too.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is conducting a forum later this month to get public opinion on creating new fees that would help the department deal with expected financial shortfalls in 2010.

“We want to get feedback on potentially charging for things that we’ve never charged for before,” said Ernie Shaw, the city’s acting director of Parks and Recreation.

At the forum — from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 16 at Lawrence High — participants will be given a survey that gauges their willingness to pay a fee for several services. Some of the ideas under consideration include charging a fee for use of cardio and weight rooms in recreation centers, charging admission to Prairie Park Nature Center, and increasing swimming pool fees.

“These days more communities charge a fee than don’t,” Shaw said of adding fees to use recreation center services.

The department charges for most classes and sports leagues, but it has relied on a mix of sales and property taxes to cover operating expenses of many facilities.

Parks and Recreation leaders have been on alert since early this year when state lawmakers began talking about keeping liquor tax revenues that generally are distributed to the city.

Lawrence Parks and Recreation gets $600,000 a year in liquor tax revenue, Shaw said. Recent movement in the Legislature has made it less likely the state will keep that money, but other budget challenges are expected.

Because of shrinking property values, the city expects a decline in tax revenues. Whether sales tax revenues will grow also is uncertain.

“We still feel like we’re in a position where we need to get views on whether people are willing to pay a little more or whether people are willing to have us stop doing some things,” Shaw said.

The City Commission will make the final decisions this summer on how the parks and recreation budget is crafted. Mayor Mike Dever said he’s interested in how residents respond.

Earlier this year, city staff members proposed closing the Prairie Park Nature Center and the city’s wading pool, eliminating summer band concerts, and shortening the hours at many recreation centers.

“We heard an outcry from the public,” Dever said. “And I think we also heard a willingness to help pay for some of those operations in the future.”

Dever said if residents want to keep the same level of services, increased fees were a likely option because he doesn’t think increased property taxes will be a popular option.

“I don’t hear many City Commission candidates or the remaining commissioners talking about increasing property taxes,” Dever said.

Comments

spankyandcranky 5 years, 12 months ago

"Some of the ideas under consideration include charging a fee for use of cardio and weight rooms in recreation centers" I use the cardio and weight rooms at these centers because I can't afford a gym membership, and there is a recreation center conveniently close to my house. If they decide to charge a fee, it might be nice to offer an option of either paying for each day of usage or paying a monthly fee. Ideally, both fees should be less than membership to a gym ... maybe $1/day or $15/month? That's something I could potentially be able to part with. Any more, and I'm out. I'll just excercise outside instead ... it IS getting warmer, slowly, but surely.

cowboy 5 years, 12 months ago

Until the city management starts using some sound judgement on expenditures they deserve not one dime of anyones money.

One example is the new brick streets in OWL. 700k per block and they are shi$ to drive on. These are less than a year old.Brick streets weren't meant to handle todays cars and truck weights.

i echo the above comments on the ancient equipment and skanky atmosphere in the rec centers.

farva 5 years, 12 months ago

If they charge for the cardio and weight rooms, then they need to charge for the gym floor use also. But none2 is correct...I go to the downtown center knowing there are no fees, but the equipment is horrible. The weight room is so dirty I'm always wondering what disease I may be picking up, and the cardio room is just average. The computer displays most of the stationary bikes are not even working or are unreadable.

Considering how little money, in the big picture, is put into the cardio and weight rooms, they should not be charging fees. If they want to charge fees, they should have been smart and developed a city rec center like Columbia MO has, instead of 3 subpar run-down facilities. If they need more money, raise the pool fees. Swimming pools are incredibly expensive to operate, maintain, and staff. I'm guessing that is where most of the money gets spent. Tack on an extra 25 cents/day for swimmers and you'd make more money than charging for the shady rec centers. If they charge fees for the rec centers, they better improve the shower facilities too, which means kicking out the people that live and sleep in them during the day. With no fees, there is little expectations. If fees are charged, expectations should rise and better equipment and facilities will and should be demanded.

Jennifer Alexander 5 years, 12 months ago

I use the downtown facilities. Granted they are not "state of the art" but they are free!! I also pay to take aerobics classes. I would be willing to pay a bit more for these classes.

I wonder if they Parks and Rec Department could create a 8 or 10 week pass to use the weights, treadmills, etc and just make it a flat rate. That way, its easier than paying per use.

Bunny_Hotcakes 5 years, 12 months ago

If they're going to start charging for the gyms, they'd better make sure they're not disease-ridden craptanks. The Holcom weight room is a joke, and the downtown facility isn't much better. East Lawrence is okay but not great.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 12 months ago

For $15 -$20 per month one could purchase a good cardio vascular Cross Over Elliptical Trainer for the home.

Taxpayers should be questioning the multi million dollar athletic project under way at Clinton Lake that basically duplicates the USD 497 multi-million dollar athletic project???

http://www.lprd.org/clmasterplan.shtml

Is Clinton Lake area within walking or biking distance to the far greater majority of Lawrence taxpayers?

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 12 months ago

I wasn't aware city government operated a workout facility. How do private health clubs and the people they employ feel about this direct competition from government? And how should taxpayers feel about footing the bill for this waste?

Danielle Brunin 5 years, 12 months ago

STRS, I definitely wouldn't say they are running a workout facility. If the community centers were workout facilities, they would go out of business because they're pretty skanky. It's hard to knock free though, especially when it's freezing cold outside and you need somewhere to work out. They just kind of put equipment around the gym in the community centers. If they charge too much, I'll go to Dog Days in the summer like always, and then use my employer discount to join Body Boutique or LAC. I imagine a lot of other people will do the same. I appreciate the free facilities and understand that they're not free to run, but they're not really worth a membership fee when I could pay $25 a month to go somewhere nicer.

Danimal 5 years, 12 months ago

I thought that these facilities were supposed to be free so that those that couldn't afford a gym membership could still be active, is that not the sole point of their existence? I think that providing free green space for recreation and relaxation should be priority above a hugely wasteful and under utilized public transportation program.

Danielle Brunin 5 years, 12 months ago

STRS, I definitely wouldn't say they are running a workout facility. If the community centers were workout facilities, they would go out of business because they're pretty skanky. It's hard to knock free though, especially when it's freezing cold outside and you need somewhere to work out. They just kind of put equipment around the gym in the community centers. If they charge too much, I'll go to Dog Days in the summer like always, and then use my employer discount to join Body Boutique or LAC. I imagine a lot of other people will do the same. I appreciate the free facilities and understand that they're not free to run, but they're not really worth a membership fee when I could pay $25 a month to go somewhere nicer.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 12 months ago

These government "services" are not free. The taxpayers pay for them.

Remember, government creates nothing. It only takes.

mablehazel 5 years, 12 months ago

Ok, I use the downtown facility and I use it because a gym membership is just too expensive. The facilities often have broken down equipment and the weight room is very grungy, but because it is free it is at a tolerable state. If they start charging for the use that will most likely eliminate my use of the facility unless the equipment is updated. Why don't they sell electrolyte drinks and snacks to assist with raising the money and then charge a slight more for swimming facilities and recreation building rentals.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 12 months ago

How about government get out of the workout facility business?

madameX 5 years, 12 months ago

Well, taxpayers pay for them, but it's taxpayers who use them too, either directly through property taxes or indirectly through property taxes paid by landlords. It's not a cut and dried as "taxpayers pay and non-taxpayers benefit"

Personally, I like the idea of selling concessions to raise money, and rather than have the city charge fees for facilities I'd like to see them start some sort of "Friends of Whatever Program" to fund what needs to be funded. That way, those of us who can afford it and want to see programs continue and continue to be free for everyone could pledge and members of the community who can't afford fees wouldn't be shut out.

MattressMan 5 years, 12 months ago

When the time comes for the forum on the 16th how many of you on here complaining about the facilities, antiquated weight equipment, crappy shower facilities etc will actually show up and voice your opinion? My guess would be not too many.

Jeanne Cunningham 5 years, 12 months ago

They SHOULD all be FREE - and money spent to promote them. If done WELL, less money COULD be spent on Police, Courts and Jails. That personnell COULD be organizing, coaching and refereeing sports and other activities, rather than dealing with crimes committed by kids - AND adults - who had “nothing better to do”.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 12 months ago

Speaking of Eudora, look at those prices for the Rec. Center. For adults. $3 a day or $30 a month, and more if you don't live in Eudora.

Reuben Turner 5 years, 12 months ago

IF A FEE IS GOING TO BE ADDED ON FOR USE; THEN UPGRADING THE MACHINES AND WEIGHTS AND ETC OUGHT TO BE INCLUDED. THE GYMS AND SUCH OR A RELIEF FOR STRUGGLING FOLKS. I KNOW THE BABBIES PLAY IN THE GYM IN THE MORNINGS DOWNTOWN AND MANY TEENS PLAY IN ALL GYMS AS A WAY TO RELEASE A LOT OF THAT ENERGY. SINCE THERE IS NOT TO MUCH FOR THEM TO GET INTO WITHOUT GETTING IN TROUBLE. TOO HIGH OF A FEE WILL CAUSE THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO GO BAD; BECAUSE IF TEENS CAN'T AFFORD THE POSITIve, they will end up doing the negative.

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