Five years ago a committee began reviewing the fees charged for use of parks facilities.
The group worked on it for four years, but couldn’t come to a consensus. The project eventually stalled out.
“Now, with a new city administration and different people on the committee, we’re going back to start reviewing that again,” Parks Director Darren Dunkle said.
Dunkle doesn’t believe the committee took the right approach in reviewing the fees the first time around.
This time, the committee will tackle the review differently.
“Last time we took on every single category and that’s why it took so long,” he said. “This time we’re going to start with athletic facilities. Once we get through that we’ll move to the next category.”
Once the committee has reviewed the numbers for the athletic facilities, it will bring a list of existing fees, along with the new recommended fees, to the park board. If the park board endorses the new fees, the committee will then present them to the city council.
Dunkle said the committee will take each new set of fees to the council by category rather than altogether. He’s hopeful the committee will complete reviewing, at least the fees for athletic facilities, by the end of the year.
“They (athletic facilities) seem to be the highest priority with everyone,” he said.
This latest review follows an incident this past May when a nonprofit group was denied use of the swine and Jaycee pavilions near Lions Lake at no charge.
The WINGS Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the educational experience for students in the Washington School District, has hosted a Picnic in the Park event there every year since 1995, near Lions Lake free of charge.
This year was the first the group was charged for use of the facilities.
In April, Lori Strubberg with WINGS asked the city council to override the park board’s decision to implement the park rental fees. Strubberg argued that the picnic allows for more opportunities in the classrooms of the district.
“As you can imagine, every penny counts,” she said.
However, the waiver was not granted to the organization due to it not directly benefiting the parks system.
“That has always been a caveat in our policy that says if an organization does something that benefits the parks system and the parks commission agrees with it, we can waive those fees,” Dunkle stated at the meeting Wednesday, Sept. 5.
“Although WINGS is a great organization and they raise funds for a great cause, it (doesn’t) directly benefit the parks and that’s why the parks commission and city council didn’t approve on waiving those fees,” he explained. “No one debated that they were a great organization and didn’t do great things in the community, because they do. It just didn’t directly benefit the parks system. It benefited the school system.”
Dunkle said that the committee will be reviewing the policies regarding nonprofits, but doesn’t guarantee that anything will change.
“It just depends on what the council thinks is best,” he said.
All of the current fees for facilities can be found under the facility rental information tab on the parks department section of the city of Washington’s website.