Dollar days may soon be coming to a Lawrence Parks and Recreation center near you.
A new survey found that area residents would be willing to pay a few new fees for Lawrence Parks and Recreation services — but most said no more than a dollar.
“People are hesitant to pay more, but we do believe this shows they are willing to pay a little something, especially if the alternative is to get a rid of a service,” said Ernie Shaw, the city’s interim director of parks and recreation.
The survey — taken by about 1,200 people online and in person — indicated many people would be willing to pay $1 per visit to use weight and cardio exercise rooms at Lawrence recreation centers. People also may be willing to pay $1 to $2 to enter the city’s Prairie Park Nature Center.
Respondents, though, were split on whether they would pay a higher fee to use the city’s swimming pools or would rather the city cut back on swimming pool hours to control costs.
Parks and Recreation leaders aren’t sure yet what fees they will recommend. Shaw said he hopes to have a recommendation to present to city leaders by mid-June.
“We hate all of this,” Shaw said. “We wish all of this was free because we understand everybody already pays taxes. But the problem now is that the taxes aren’t going far enough.”
None of the fee increases likely would take effect before 2010, Shaw said. Fees for this year’s outdoor pool season, which starts Saturday, already are set.
Proposals to increase fees for 2010 came up earlier this year when the Kansas Legislature was considering a plan to keep about $1 million in liquor tax revenues that the city uses to fund various operations, including many recreation programs.
The Legislature ultimately agreed to let the cities keep the money, but city leaders said fee increases still could be in the cards for Parks and Recreation programs.
“We know the state is probably going to have budget challenges for many years, and we’ve already said 2011 could be an even more difficult year for us,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said.
Here’s a look at some of the survey results:
• 47 percent said they were either likely or very likely to pay an extra dollar to enter the city’s indoor or outdoor aquatic centers. But 45 percent also said they would accept the city cutting back on swimming pool hours in order to keep admission prices steady. Shaw said the department would look at both options.
• 45 percent said they would be willing to pay $1 to enter the city’s wading pool, which currently is free. A total of 37 percent said they would accept reduced hours.
• 49 percent said they would be willing to pay $1 to use a weight or cardio room at recreation center. A total of 30 percent said they would accept reduced hours to keep the service free.
• 71 percent said they would pay $1 to enter the city’s Prairie Park Nature Center — which is currently free — while 48 percent said they would pay either $1 or $2 to enter the center. And 46 percent said they could accept reduced hours.
• 71 percent said they believe the city should continue to provide $12,000 per year to fund the Lawrence City Band Summer Concert Series in South Park.
• 79 percent said the downtown planter and beautification program was an essential service provided by the Parks and Recreation Department. And 57 percent said they wanted the program maintained at its current level.
• 78 percent said they were open to the idea of Parks and Recreation selling advertising space on outfield fences and other similar city structures to raise money.
Shaw said staff members now will examine whether it is financially feasible to collect the new fees. He said he had questions about whether the city, for example, could install the new technology or add the staff needed to collect fees at weight rooms if the fee were only a dollar.
He also said his staff will look at pass programs for Prairie Park Nature Center and other venues that are used heavily by children.
“We don’t want to have to charge kids a dollar every time they walk in the door,” Shaw said. “It is a fine line we’re trying to walk.”