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Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

City of Ashland

PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION

 

STUDY SESSION
MINUTES

 

November 14, 2007

ATTENDANCE

Present:    Commissioners Eggers, Lewis, Noraas, Rosenthal; Director Robertson;

                 Superintendents Gies and Teige

Absent:     Commissioner Gardiner; City Council Liaison Navickas

CALL TO ORDER

Eggers called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer.

FEES AND CHARGES REVIEW

Robertson reminded the commission about the importance of reviewing fees and charges each year, especially in light of recent news that tax revenues for FY ’06-’07 were lower than anticipated [$3.7M versus $4M]. He indicated that the ’06-’07 commission decision to charge fees at a 31% recovery rate [up from 17% the previous year] would be reviewed, and staff would request direction regarding potential additional increases to better meet expenses.

Teige said she would discuss fees related to facilities, the golf course, and the Calle marketplace and restaurant seating. She asked the commission to think about either: 1) raising fees each year; or 2) raising fees by larger increments every few years. She reported that the current fee structure, at a 31% recovery rate for the ’07-’08 fiscal year, incurred $168,724 in expenses and generated $41,427 in revenues, with a total loss of $127,297. She reminded commissioners that the higher fees went into effect July 1, 2007, and the actual recovery rate year-to-date was 24%.

Facilities

Teige presented scenarios in which expenses were recovered at 40% and 50% and showed monetary effects on wedding, facility rental, and field / light usage fees.

Commissioners asked questions and expressed opinions about proposed fee increases. When asked by Noraas about the top-income-producing fee, Teige reported that weekend rentals and wedding packages provided the greatest sources of revenue. Eggers expressed the importance of making the best use of the facilities and said “grandfathered” facilities users should pay for use of the buildings along with other users. Commissioners and staff discussed those groups receiving discounts as long-time and frequent users.

Jeanne Chouard of the Ashland Soccer Club advocated for raising fees slowly to allow groups to budget for the increases through their membership fees. She said Parks could generate additional revenue by charging fees to tournament organizers, since tournament organizers charge fees to teams. She also suggested requiring leagues to pay “field use permit fees,” which she indicated are common in league circles and help establish clear guidelines for field users.

Frank D’Entremont of the American Legion said his organization donated Pioneer Hall to the City in 1986 and use the facility approximately once per month.

Art Clemmons of the folk dancing group said it’s important to maintain continuity of location for their members.

Pete Barnes of the Ashland Pinochle Club said the Ashland Community Center was donated to the City in the 1930s by the Women’s Civic Club. He said certain community activities benefit the community and need to continue, even if costs aren’t recovered, and that many visitors enjoy Lithia Park without paying a fee.

Matt Ross of the Ashland Folk Dancers said his organization is a volunteer group that requests donations from dancers, with money spent on rent and the replacement of worn equipment. He suggested that Parks experiment with floor refinishing products and procedures to find a durable solution.

Jim Young of the Lithia Artisans Guild said long-term users were often community groups receiving reduced rates and suggested charging one-time users more than long-term users.

Derek Volkart of Ashland Ultimate suggested raising fees for field light usage.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Noraas asked about the possibility of raising some fees by 40% and others by 50%, with community groups charged less and one-time users more. She said the wedding package fees were low compared to other cities. Rosenthal expressed concern about raising fees without assessing a full year of data. He agreed with Noraas’s suggestion to raise fees for certain groups but said he didn’t want to raise fees across-the-board. Lewis asked about capacity percentage for facilities rentals and Teige reported it to be 40%. Lewis said he hoped the commission could move toward the 40% goal for recovery, he liked Noraas’s idea and the light and field usage suggestions, he preferred to leave the grandfathered groups as is, and he wanted to waive 50% of the alcohol fee for community groups [at staff’s discretion]. Commissioners discussed finding a fair method for charging all facilities users for utilities expenses.

Teige was asked how much of the 41% in revenues came from weddings and she agreed to send commissioners a breakdown and to prepare a proposal showing:

1)            Community groups and long-term users – 40% recovery

2)            Tournament users – 50% recovery

3)            One-time users – 50% recovery

Oak Knoll Golf Course

Teige stated that, in 2005, staff presented information on fees and gathered input from around the valley, with the result being the commission’s approval to increase certain golf course fees while decreasing others. She indicated that prices at Oak Knoll were comparable to other nine-hole courses in the area and recommended retaining current daily fees but raising annuals by 3%.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Lewis said that Oak Knoll remains competitive in the market and suggested keeping fees “just below” costs at other courses. He said that a 3% increase in annuals seemed reasonable. Rosenthal said the suggestion made by William Anderson, a golfer requesting a reduced senior [60+] annual fee, would be something to consider and he voiced agreement with Teige’s suggestions. Eggers disagreed with potentially offering a senior rate and Noraas suggested that Bob Haney, golf pro, might consider offering golfers “senior specials” in addition to the other deals offered at the course.

Calle Maintenance Costs

Teige talked about costs associated with the maintenance of the Calle, including restroom custodial, recycle area, trash, general repairs, irrigation, and landscaping. She reported that, in 2007, staff collected revenues as follows:

§         $5,400—marketplace artisans

§         $5,440—five restaurants

Teige recommended a 3% fee increase in the next fiscal year. Robertson reported that it was a good year on the Calle, with maintenance costs covered by funds collected. He suggested building up a fund to cover larger maintenance expenses such as the Calle walkway, which was in need of resurfacing.

Marcus Scott of the Lithia Marketplace reported that it was a good year for the artisans on the Calle but the space was cramped, as the market was at 100% occupancy much of the time. He asked the commission to consider renting more space to the artisans, thereby allowing the commission to collect additional revenues.

Jim Young said the artisans used the Calle only 54 days of the year and restaurants and artisans were expected to pay at the same rate even though restaurants used more resources. He agreed to put his suggestions in writing.

Melissa Jensen of Louie’s Bar and Grill said her restaurant employs its own custodial staff and maintains its own restroom facilities. She reported paying taxes to the City for her establishment and expressed concern about paying additional fees to Parks for Calle-related expenses. She asked to be informed about future Calle Subcommittee meetings.

Teige notified the commission that their December study session would include a review of fees associated with the ice rink, pool, and other recreational programs offered by the Parks Department.

ASHLAND CREEK PARK CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS DISCUSSION

Robertson said the commission spent a great deal of time working on developing master plans for North Main Park and Ashland Creek Park, including conducting numerous public meetings. He reported that landscape architects KenCairn and Sager were hired to convert the two master plans into construction documents and, after the last regular meeting, questions surfaced requiring additional discussion. He said lingering questions included the shelter and basketball configurations, restrooms, bank treatment, and channel opportunities.

Laurie Sager reported meeting with Nature Center staff members Linda Chesney and Kari Gies to discuss the park in terms of the community garden and environmental education. She talked about their practical suggestions and said that she and KenCairn were halfway through their contract and needed input from the commission to move forward. She went on to discuss pathways in terms of proposed materials and width, basketball court and kiosk locations, bathroom structure and entry zone, and the proposed classroom. She expressed her desire to honor the master plan while providing creative and practical suggestions for the park.

Tom Sager reported also meeting with Chesney and Gies about “what works and what doesn’t at North Mountain Park” and distributed drawings of the proposed structures for Ashland Creek Park. He indicated that Chesney and Gies stated that the “open air structure” for teaching outdoors was not ideal and that additional storage space for tables and chairs would be practical. He agreed with their suggestions to split apart the two kiosks, allowing the bulletin areas to face the center of the entry court, and to move the bike racks closer to the basketball court.

Discussion Among Commissioners

Noraas questioned the need to remove the barn, as the historical structure might prove to be useful. Eggers said her understanding from re-reading the master plan was that the creek was to be the main feature of the park and she expressed discomfort with locating the basketball court so close to the creek. She questioned the need for a classroom, since her impression was that the park was suitable for educational nature explorations.

Kari Gies said the park would be used by many community groups, including enthusiasts involved with permaculture, butterflies, and school groups, and indicated that a storage area [for materials and supplies required for classes and presentations] would be helpful, along with shelter from the elements. She said the knowledge acquired by Nature Center staff could be put to good use for the community with respect to Ashland Creek Park.

Noraas agreed that educational programs require shelter from the elements and advocated for the use of the existing barn at the site. Rosenthal voiced appreciation for the architects’ work on the construction documents and said the basketball court seemed out of place. He suggested retaining it within the construction documents but including it at the end of the construction phase, if at all.

Commissioners agreed on the kiosk location and structure as well as pathway materials and said they would discuss the shelter at a later date.

Bryan Holley said that some community garden maintenance issues required attention before the park construction commenced, including hose bib maintenance.

Robertson reminded the commission that his employee review was scheduled for December and suggested switching to a “self-evaluation process” in which he would choose several predominant issues from the past year and evaluate his responses. He said he planned to forward information to the commission in advance of the process.

ADJOURNMENT – By consensus, with no further business, Eggers adjourned the meeting at 10:27 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Susan Dyssegard, Ashland Parks and Recreation

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