Parks committee chair favors raising rates for inflation
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A new agreement for the School District of Rhinelander to use the city’s ball fields in 2016-17 should include higher rates than what was in an agreement the city of Rhinelander approved with the school district 13 years ago, city Parks, Buildings and Grounds Committee chairperson Sherrie Belliveau said at Monday’s meeting.
The committee has been involved with putting together a new agreement after learning earlier this year the school district hasn’t had a written agreement with the city since 2003 for playing softball at Pioneer Park, where a second softball field has been proposed at the site of an ice rink with the boards in deteriorating condition. Other groups such as the Hodag Farmers’ Market and the Oneida County Fair Board have current agreements in place to use the park.
Belliveau – who made reference to a proposed agreement drafted by city administrator Kristina Aschenbrenner for the school district to use the city’s ball fields at Pioneer Park, West Park and Hodag Park – took issue with the maintenance and set-up costs remaining at $20 for each event.
“Kristina, when we asked you to come up with figures to go to the school district, we never expected you to come back with the same amount of money we were (receiving) 13 years ago,” said Belliveau, who noted she had talked with a couple of people on the committee who found that “unreasonable,” given the increase in the Consumer Price Index during that time.
“We don’t want the taxpayers subsidizing this,” Belliveau said. “It’s not fair to them.”
Committee member Alex Young, who called raising the rates a “short-term solution,” suggested looking at what other communities have been doing to provide ball fields, such as the construction of the sports complex in Minocqua.
“I’m no engineer, but right off the top of my head, when you think about what you need for these sports fields – flat, open space – the first thing that occurs to me is that maybe trying to do something, if at some point we can ever get to the point that we could use the landfill area because that is flat, open space,” Young said. “That would seem to be, to me, the easiest place for a long-term solution to look at. Maybe it’s not possible. I don’t know, but I think we should start that discussion right now.”
Belliveau agreed with Young, though she noted that something needed to done about the present ball field use.
“OK, then we can go back to the idea of looking at user fees, because we do have multiple organizations using those fields,” Belliveau said. “The city taxpayers have paid to support those fields, and user fees may not be a bad option.”
No action was taken on the proposed agreement, for which committee members directed Aschenbrenner to revise.
Action on the proposed second softball field at Pioneer Park has been hold pending the results of a parks survey sent out this summer to city residents. Belliveau noted those surveys must be submitted by Aug. 8 to be considered. A public input session about the city parks is planned for Sept. 8.