Reserving shelters, lodges, and ball fields at Winona's parks will be 50 percent more expensive next year after a unanimous vote by the City Council to approve proposed fee increases. The new fee ordinance made modest increases to many city permits and license fees and made slight reductions to others, but the most significant hikes were rental rates for park facilities.
The change eliminates separate fee schedules for residents and non-residents. For residents that means the cost of renting a ball field will go from $40 per day to $60 and the cost of renting shelters will rise from $100 per day to $150.
The council did not discuss the proposed increases before approving them. Park and Recreation Community Services Director Chad Ubl said that the increased fees still would not cover the maintenance costs for the fields and structures. Ubl said that increases to rental fees were needed to cover the loss of other revenues such as concession sales and program fees, both of which have been declining in recent years.
Ubl explained that city staff decided to propose the same fees for residents and nonresidents because of some cases in which Winonans rented out facilities for nonresidents. Those "friend of a friend" rentals posed problems when Park and Recreation staff tried to inform the renters of a problem with the facility prior to their reservation, Ubl explained. There were also instances of alcohol being consumed illegally at lodges, he said. "For security reasons, it is important for us to know who is using a facility." The new schedule, which equalizes costs for city taxpayers and nonresidents, will help reduce the temptation to lie about who is renting a facility, Ubl hopes.
The proposed fee ordinance amendment attached to the City Council agenda indicated that there were no current fees for reserving ball fields and shelters and for hosting events in city parks. The Winona Post reported this information in its Sunday, September 1 edition. However, that information was erroneous. Ubl explained to council members during the meeting that a formatting error had replaced the correct figures for 2013 fees with zeroes. He apologized for the error and handed out corrected versions of the fee schedule.
Ubl, City Manager Judy Bodway, and Financial Director Mary Burrichter could not be reached before the Winona Post printed the September 1 edition.
Alexander: better notice for property owners, please
At the council's meeting last Monday, council member Michelle Alexander called for better notice for property owners who will be affected by city projects. She explained she had received several calls from concerned businesses near Franklin Street downtown that had not been notified of plans to demolish the street for water line repairs. "A little effort on the front side of it can take care of a lot of angst on the back side," she advised city staff.
At a August 21 meeting, Alexander mentioned citizens who had come to her after they were surprised by city asphalt work on their road. Public Works Director Keith Nelson told her at that meeting, "We can do better, we will do better" in notifying citizens of upcoming road work.