Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DeKalb officials want $100 a day team practice fees = Sports Program Killer?

I learned of this issue late last week and have been in communication with representatives of Murphey Candler Baseball, Atlanta Colts Football and the Dunwoody Senior Baseball programs; all of whom stated this fee structure could easily kill their programs. On Friday, I e-mailed a number of people in DeKalb asking them to confirm the new park usage policies and/or please provide me a copy as I can not yet find it on-line? My hope is that if DeKalb were to implement usage policies that they would exempt associations that have been privately maintaining the park property thereby privately taking on the duty of running their own park, such as Murphey Candler Baseball, the Atlanta Colt Football and Dunwoody Senior Baseball.
Cathy Cobbs of the Dunwoody Crier has posted a story as shown below.

If DeKalb County Parks and Recreation officials have their way, recreational leagues may be paying up to $100 a day to practice on their home fields, a cost that one organization estimates could reach up to $75,000 in fees that it doesn’t have.

Several football recreational league presidents, including the Atlanta Colts Youth Association, have been ordered to attend a mandatory meeting in Tucker on July 28 “in regards to field allocations and rental fees.”

The e-mail, signed by VonShea L. Booth, does not elaborate on any specific agenda items, but it’s apparently not the first meeting that DeKalb has held regarding new fees.

On July 14, DeKalb County parks and recreation officials, including parks head Marilyn Drew, met with several soccer recreation program leaders to outline a new fee schedule for field use.

The meeting included the Tucker Youth Sports Association, Stone Mountain Youth Soccer Association, the DeKalb Attack, and several other organizations based in Cobb and Gwinnett that had expressed an interest in playing in DeKalb County.

According to several people who attended the meeting, the county laid out plans to start charging usage fees to sports associations that use county fields.

“These usage fees amount to $100 a day, per field and include these same fields for practice up to three days a week,” according a source who attended the meeting. “As of now, this only applies to soccer fields, but they assured us that they would be rolling this out to all sports, football included, during this year.”

Atlanta Colts Youth Association officials, who will attend the July 28 meeting, said the new fees could mean the end of the 40-year Colts’ football program.

“This move would essentially put the Colts out of business,” said ACYA president Jim DeLany. “Anyway you figure it, we are talking about anywhere from $57,000 to $75,000 in fees that are unanticipated.”

DeLany said that registration for Colts’ programs closed in May, and that he can’t see, in today’s economy, how to raise the additional funds.

“Our parents have already paid and the season is set to start with pre-season workouts next week,” DeLany said. “I can’t imagine going back to them to try to get this amount of money from them.”

DeLany said this latest move has come as a shock to ACYA officials, who thought that DeKalb County had become more supportive of the group in the past few months.

“We felt like we were getting some traction with DeKalb County under the new CEO Burrell Ellis,” DeLany said. “We had received some new fencing and additional parking, and we felt good that we were moving in the right direction. That’s why it was such a shock to us.”

ACYA is a volunteer-driven organization, as are most of the others around the city. Fundraising is devoted to raising money for field maintenance and many other essentials that the county does not provide, another reason why rec league leaders feel betrayed by this latest move.

“For years we have put our own sweat and money into making these fields usable,” a source said. “To have them give us no credit for that and then try to charge these fees is outrageous.”

DeKalb County officials, according to sources at the July 14 meeting also said that any group, with proof of insurance, could use any park they want, as long as they come up with the $100 usage fee.

“We asked them what would happen if one of these groups damaged the equipment or trashed the fields, we were essentially told ‘tough luck,’” the source said.

The Crier sent e-mails to Drew, other DeKalb parks officials, and DeKalb County Spokesperson Kristie Swink for response, but none replied prior to its Monday deadline.


Dunwoody Mom said...

Marilyn Boyd-Drew was fired on Monday and her assistant put on leave by CEO Ellis Hopefully, the county will reevaluate this.

GaryRayBetz said...

Seems to be equitable and comparable to what other counties in other states charge for county sports fields from what my research indicates (though high for the Southeast except for Florida); however, this would also appear to be an expected excrescence when a region declares city hood and chooses to do battle with its county.

happy said...

Hey Dunwoody Mom - that's what I was thinking!

happy said...

GaryRay -

this has nothing to do with Dunwoody becoming a city - it is a countywide thing. The only connection to Dunwoody is that a lot of people in Dunwoody use Murphey Candler, Keswick Park and other DeKalb County sports fields.

GaryRayBetz said...

Oh, ye of naiveté, it has much to do with the establishment of cityhood.

RT said...

John - Don't forget that the MCGSA Girls' Softball program would also be affected.

Ken Thompson said...

My quick read of the post and the comments left me thinking most folks think "usage fees" are a Bad Thing[tm]. Generally it would seem more than appropriate for non-core government provided services.

Dunwoody Mom said...

WSB-TV covered this on their newscast at 6:00.

Apparently, Dekalb is reviewing the plan to decide whether or not to implement the fees and supposedly the meeting next Tuesday is cancelled, although the folks with the Colts has not heard that.

John Heneghan said...

WSB-TV Video