Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

November 26, 2013

Parks board eyes higher fees and smoking ban

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — The Batesville Parks and Recreation Board met one of its goals Nov. 20 when a committee (Mayor Rick Fledderman, clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel, Parks Commissioner Mike Baumer and BPRB members Dr. Ed Negovetich and Chris Bradford) recommended rental rate hikes at Liberty Park.

More money is needed to maintain the city recreational facilities (which now include Liberty plus South Street and Weberding (Dirks Road) parks, Batesville Memorial Pool, Brum Woods, Bill Gillespie Soccer Park, The Plex and Liberty Trail) due to constant budget shortfalls as the park tax rate isn’t sufficient to raise all of the needed funds.

BPRB President Bob Fitzpatrick reported, “The last increases came longer than 13 years ago. It’s about time.”

The proposed Liberty Park building rates are listed first with the current rates in parentheses: shelters No. 1-3, $100 ($50); shelters No. 4-6, $50 ($30); pavilion, $300 ($200); pavilion with kitchen, $400 ($250); company picnics in pavilion, $500 ($200); company picnics in pavilion with kitchen, $700 ($250).

Organizations with 501c3 or tax-exempt status (churches, clubs, schools) will receive 50 percent discounts.

One rental fee will remain the same: pavilion wedding, $1,400, with $400 refunded if the area is cleaned up afterwards and there is no damage.

“There have been a lot of improvements” to the park facilities, Baumer pointed out. All of the shelters have had recent upgrades, such as new roofs, lighting and paint. The pavilion has new lighting and tables, and a fan and public address system will be added soon. Also, pavilion and grandstand restrooms have been improved.

The suggested Liberty Park ball field use fees are based on the teams: Batesville High School and Oldenburg Academy, $700 per season ($100); adult softball, $200 per team ($100); American Legion baseball, $200 per season ($0); public, $50 per day with no prep, $100 with prep ($50).

Of the high school teams, Baumer explained, “They had been paying for their own chalk and field dry, and some fertilizer for fields. With an increased rate, the parks department would pay for all chalk, field dry and any field care.” For softball and Legion baseball, as in the past, the parks department will supply all chalk and field dry, and prepare the field for game nights. For public use, preparation includes dragging the field if needed and lining it once before the game’s start.

Fitzpatrick said, “We need another category, I think,” for the Batesville Lumbermen vintage baseball team. Baumer suggested $50.

The commissioner asked whether youth league fees will rise. Fledderman said city officials will meet with soccer, baseball and softball leaders.

As they discussed the higher fees, member Tim Hunter said users “had a bargain before and we certainly had a lot of people take advantage of that.” He felt if fees are too high, the facilities won’t be used. “We must weigh how much it costs to provide the facilities.”

Member Don Karbowski reminded the board about an earlier conversation to charge persons and groups that are located outside of Batesville higher fees. Negovetich suggested an out-of-town surcharge of 15-20 percent. The consensus was to charge 20 percent more for anyone living outside of city limits or Batesville Community School Corp. boundaries.

The committee also decided in the case of a scheduling conflict, Batesville residents would be favored over out-of-towners as they pay taxes to help support the system.

The city council must approve the recommended fees, said the mayor. He suggested that Baumer and a BPRB member present an ordinance containing the proposed rates to the panel.

Another topic was considered. According to Baumer, “I approached Rick in March 2009” about banning smoking at all parks and other recreational spots. “We were going to wait on the state ban,” which only covers building interiors. No smoking signs already are posted at Liberty Park, but the commissioner wants the council to pass an ordinance.

He said instead of a total smoking ban, a smoking area outside of the Liberty Park pavilion’s south end could be designated.

If the ordinance becomes a reality, violators will be subject to fines already in the city code. Baumer will ask city attorney Lynn Fledderman about enforcement.

Working to improve the health of citizens “has got to start somewhere,” Bradford observed.

Fledderman urged BPRB members to discuss the suggested ordinance with police before voting on it.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.