The Town Council heard from staff at its Nov. 16 session with an update on the ongoing discussion regarding fee waivers for use of town facilities and amenities. The council approved a tentative Youth Field, Court and Sport League Fee Waiver Policy, but work continues on a Community Center and special events fee policy.
Community Services Director Rachael Goodwin told the council there is growing demand for facilities and staff is working to have a fair and consistent manner to allocate availability.
Goodwin said the sports policy includes uniform guidelines for requesting town resources and the associated rental fees for youth sports, leagues and organizations.
The policy also provides an equitable means for organizers to apply for fee reductions and establish mutually beneficial partnerships between the community and Town Hall.
The policy outlines that no more than 50 percent of applicable fees are eligible for waiver and establishes guidelines, criteria and process for youth field, court and sport league resource allocation as well as conditions for fee reductions.
The policy also allows for a user agreement in exceptional situations.
User agreements outline responsibilities for users of the facilities including costs and/or insurance; loss of eligibility for failure to abide by guidelines and requirements; scheduling; adherence to all applicable rules, regulations, laws and ordinances of the town.
In an effort to provide for local youth sports leagues staff has developed a Fountain Hills Youth Sport Alliance. The objective of this program is to affiliate all Fountain Hills youth-based sports groups under a consistent and equitable set of operational standards, including code of conduct and established scheduling priority.
In order to qualify for fee reductions for field, court or league rentals participation within the Alliance is required. The Youth Sports Alliance is open to all youth programs and leagues that operate within Fountain Hills and serve the youth of the community.
Goodwin outlined the need for the possible user agreements by demonstrating a cost example. She noted that for Little League the average annual costs for fields are $29,000 and $12,000 for lighting for a total of $41,000. For the Soccer Club it would be $8,700 for fields and $7,500 for lights totaling $16,200. Goodwin said in both instances neither league would likely be able to afford those costs even at 50 percent off.
User agreements would address issues related to storage, snack shop stand use, field availability, scheduling and community service efforts.
Staff also proposed recommendations for fee discounts that apply to use of Community Center facilities. The proposal is all Fountain Hills based non-profit groups are eligible for a reduction in fees up to 50 percent of the established residential/non-profit fee rates.
Classroom space will be available to reserve after 2 p.m. on weekdays consistent with Community Center hours of operation.
Reservation start and end times are accounted for in their entirety to include pre and post time needed for set up, clean up and catering needs.
Weekend reservations require a minimum of two ballrooms with a minimum of four rental hours. This is to account for weekend staff time.
Proof of non-profit status will be required for all groups seeking fee reductions.
Fee reductions do not apply for large items such as stage or dance floor set up. All deposits, fees, permits and deadlines apply as standard.
Policy exceptions can apply in exceptional cases and will be limited to programs that serve an altruistic, essential mission such as the blood drives, or enhance the programs offered within the Community Center.
Fee reductions for special events apply, as in all instances, only to Fountain Hills non-profit groups. The existing special event application process must be completed, and reductions do not apply to deposits, fees permits or similar costs. Events are subject to availability and review by the special events committee.
The town is expected to discuss a user agreement with the Chamber of Commerce to address issues surrounding its six signature events: Fountain Festival Fall, Fountain Festival Spring, Thanksgiving Day Parade, Oktoberfest, Stroll in the Glow and State of the Town.
Such an agreement would consider fees, scheduling, marketing and other partnership efforts related to the events.
Staff said one of the more difficult challenges related to Community Center fees is to accommodate the Fountain Hills Civic and Cultural Association (FHCCA), aka: “I Love Fountain Hills.” This is a long-standing organization that predates incorporation that at one time ran the Community Center (on Saguaro Boulevard). FHCCA has a myriad of offshoot groups and committees that use town facilities. FHCCA and associated groups have always been exempted from fees, but the current proposed policy allows for no more than a 50% discount.
Tammy Bell, representing FHCCA, told the council the group with all of its programs and activities uses the Community Center 520 hours per year, and involves hundreds of citizens. She also noted that the group has contributed hundreds of thousands in donations to town activities and provided hundreds of volunteers over the years.
“Honor our long-term generous relationship we have had,” Bell said.
She said they would willingly discuss a user agreement.