SCHENECTADY — It’s official: There will be no changes to the city’s park and field permit fee structure in 2018.
The City Council’s Health and Recreation Committee has, however, unanimously approved a resolution to set security deposit payments for sports leagues that use city parks and fields. The resolution, approved on Monday, also includes a charge against permit holders if the police are called to one of the city’s parks or fields during league play.
If approved by the full City Council, each sports league will need to pay a $1,500 security deposit to use city parks and fields. Half of the deposit would be required at the beginning of the season and the other half would be paid during the middle of the season. The money would go into an escrow account and would be returned at the end of the season.
Youth baseball leagues, including the city Babe Ruth and high school baseball teams, would be exempt from the deposit requirement.
There would also be a fee of $225 for each police car needed to respond to public safety issues at permitted events. The fee will be waived for medical calls.
Councilman John Polimeni, a member of the committee, said if there is no mess left behind and police aren’t called for a legitimate reason, permit holders will not be charged for use of the fields.
The rules change came after a debate between council members about the fee structure for the city’s parks and fields.
It also followed an outcry from organizers of youth baseball leagues and city cricket leagues about possible fee increases.
The council previously considered raising fees for the A and B diamond fields in Central Park from $75 to $125 per game. The fee for the use of the softball field would have gone from $25 to $100 game, under the previous plan.
Those increases were tabled and sent to the city’s Recreation Advisory Commission last week. City Council President Ed Kosiur, though, said council members would have a final say on whatever recommendation comes out of the advisory board. He added that there will be no changes to the fee structure for 2018.
Kosiur expressed concerns about making youth leagues pay a deposit, even if it gets returned to them at the end of the season.
“I got calls saying the security deposit really, truly would hurt the kids,” Kosiur said during Monday’s meeting.
Kosiur said some of the coaches pay fees out of their own pockets so the kids can play during the season.
Wil Bernacet, president of the Schenectady Baseball board, which oversees the Babe Ruth League, said the league does cover the $175 to $200 registration fee required from each player to play in the league.
“Every year, up a to a dozen kids come in with no money,” Bernacet said. “I sponsor 100 percent or a portion of their fees.”
The deposit, according to Kosiur and Riggi, was prompted by the city’s cricket leagues.
“The whole thing is coming from the cricket leagues and the number of calls we receive on a yearly basis about parks being left in deplorable conditions after league play,” Kosiur said. “The cost is then incurred by our city crews who come in there and clean up the facility,”
Riggi, who is a member of the Health and Recreation Committee, said he supports the security deposit requirement. But he said there also needs to be a charge if a field is left a mess.
Onkar Singh, president of the Schenectady Softball Cricket Association, said he was fine with paying the security deposit, as long as that league isn’t the only one paying it. But he also said he was fine with the youth leagues being exempt.
“If someone has to clean up, then someone should pay a price for it,” SIngh said, adding that he also wants to know what the actual price for cleanup is.
Bernacet was concerned, though, about next year. He said the league traditionally isn’t charged to use city fields and was assured it wouldn’t have to pay for the 2018 season.
He also said he hopes the city charges teams coming from outside of the city more than they charge his teams. Kosiur agreed, saying there should be a different fee for non-residents.
“It would be a devastating blow to community baseball if we have to pay the same as the travel leagues,” Bernacet said. “We would have a beautiful park in our backyard that we wouldn’t be able to use.”
The full council will officially vote on the resolution Monday.
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