Jefferson commissioners OK increase in parks, recreation user fees over four years

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County commissioners have approved an increase in usage fees for parks and recreation facilities, to be fully implemented over the next four years.

The plan, which was unanimously approved by the three commissioners Monday, is projected to raise annual fee-based revenue from $59,742 to $69,564.

This additional $9,822 per year will help meet only part of the recreational cost shortfall in the county, according to County Administrator Philip Morley.

“This fairly modest adjustment raises a modest amount of funds,” Morley said.

“It still does not address the overall issue of general fund for parks and rec and how that has not kept pace with the growth and costs.

“This helps a little bit, but doesn’t solve the problem about how we maintain our programs and our capital facilities.”

During the scheduled public hearing, Kathleen Kler said the fee hike is necessary.

“The budget situation for parks and rec is not addressed sufficiently,” Kler said.

“The use of these facilities has increased considerably along with a change in economic status.

“For many people, this is their only way to have wonderful facilities.”

Kler said that most of the facilities are staffed by volunteers, stretching the resource.

Kler, who is a candidate for the District 3 county commissioner seat, also served on an exploratory committee to investigate the possibility of creating a Metropolitan Parks District, which did not occur.

“We need long-term sustainable funding for our magnificent and significant recreation programs,” Kler said.

Linda Herzog of Quilcene said the funding shortfall was a direct result of the prevailing anti-tax sentiment.

“We need to let the public know they need to pay for these services as a society and a group rather than imposing fees for users,” Herzog said.

“People need to get this, and the more we try to provide services without them getting it, the more they will think that services should be free.”

User rates haven’t been raised since 2009, following a four-year rate adjustment schedule that was approved in 2005.

The average increase for services that will reach its peak in 2018 is $5 per activity.

Under the new agreement, several per-night campground fees will not increase aside from in Quilcene, which will go up from $12 to $15.

At the Port Townsend Recreation Center, the four-hour rental fee will increase from $260 to $275.

The greatest increase is $50, for the rental of Memorial Field for a sports game or carnival.

“The time for modest fee increases is long over and the time is past for major fee increases to support these facilities and programs,” said Jefferson County resident Tom Thiersch during the public hearing.

“It’s said that we need the parks in operation to keep the kids busy and out of trouble, and that’s true.

“But why are we still subsidizing things like adult softball games? There is no justification for underwriting adult activities. Adults need to pay their fair share and then some.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 07. 2014 6:27PM
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