PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 1, 2010
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on September 1, 2010 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Chairman Andrew Levine, Vice Chairman Joel Grosso, Brian Bark, Michael Clancy (late), Kathy Kelly, Mark McMenamin, Buck O’Neill, Ann Porter and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance was Kathy Pawlenko, Park and Recreation Director.
Call to Order: Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Public Comment/New Business: Field Usage Fees: Resident Joseph Garvey, representing Rock Girls Softball, said that he has scheduled a softball tournament at Helen Randle Park and he would like to have a work session style meeting with this Board and the Board of Supervisors to discuss field fees for tournaments, as softball and baseball have very different organizations and usage needs.
Mr. Levine said that field usage fees for next year are on the agenda for the Board to consider this evening. He asked Mr. Garvey to postpone his comments until after the Board has addressed this agenda item. He explained that Newtown Little League has a formal agreement with Newtown Borough for field maintenance in exchange for field usage. The Board will be reviewing that agreement as well as other municipalities’ fee schedules.
Mr. Garvey said that Rock Softball wants more involvement in the setting of field usage fees.
Mr. Levine said that the Park and Recreation Board, whose members are also actively involved in various sports leagues in the Township, would consider all of the sports’ needs before making a recommendation to the Supervisors on a new fee structure.
Mr. Grosso said that he had attended a recent financial planning committee meeting to discuss next year’s budget for field maintenance and improvements. Some requests for field improvements were met with some resistance by that committee. He said that before he would want to move forward with any new fee structure, it might be helpful to be able to calculate the time spent by the Public Works Department on field maintenance and to place some financial value on that time.
Mr. Clancy arrived at this point in the meeting.
Mr. Levine agreed with Mr. Grosso. He suggested that perhaps a meeting which included Public Works Director Gary Crossland would be helpful when considering any change to the fees which might involve field maintenance by the sports organizations.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she would be very receptive to such a meeting. She is aware that the Public Works staff is over burdened and new fields will be coming on line next year. She noted that she would like to consider a fee structure that better reflects field usage. She suggested that the Board consider a separate fee for tournaments, perhaps at 10% of the registration fees collected from participating teams. Tournament fees could be allocated for field maintenance.
Mr. Garvey strongly objected to this suggestion, noting that there are many other costs associated with hosting of tournaments. He said that he objected to paying additional fees when the fields are not being given proper attention by the over burdened Public Works staff.
Mrs. Porter pointed out that Public Works is also responsible for work beyond the playing fields in the other public areas in the parks. She said that she is aware of a field maintenance agreement between Langhorne Borough and Hulmeville Soccer Association which addresses the public areas and the playing fields. She would provide the Board members with copies of this agreement for consideration.
Mr. Clancy said that when the Board reviews the agreements with other sports organizations, maintenance equipment would have to be discussed. He noted that the Little League agreement with Newtown Borough involves Pickering Field, only one field for one sport. In the Township, the organizations are using multiple fields in a number of locations. These locations also include amenities such as playgrounds and walking trails which are for public use.
Mr. Bark expressed some concern about leagues taking on field maintenance responsibilities, noting that some sports organizations share the use of fields, place different stresses on the fields and have different standards of maintenance. Parent support of the sports organizations can also change over time, leaving fields inconsistently maintained. He suggested creating a fee structure which would create a partnership among leagues on spending for field maintenance.
Mr. Levine pointed out that fees collected for field usage are allocated by the Board of Supervisors. These fees are not kept separately to be spent only on fields, but are part of the Township’s general revenues.
Mrs. Pawlenko reminded the Board that in addition to maintaining the fields, the park and recreation budget and public works employee time are spent on other park lands and open space as well as field maintenance. She said that it might be helpful for the Board to prioritize work to be addressed in the parks, playgrounds and open space areas.
Mr. Clancy agreed, but also noted that the Township has spent a lot of its recreation budget in recent years on Veterans Park and playgrounds. The parks are close to built out now and going forward future budgets will be used for upkeep and improvements.
Mr. Levine noted that there will also be a decrease in developer fees in lieu of open space as the Township becomes built out.
Mr. Garvey insisted that the leagues would be able to maintain and improve fields for less money than the Township; the leagues can seek contracts from competitive landscapers or use volunteers in combination with lawn services. He continued to complain that his league is being charged field usage fees and the fields are not being maintained to his satisfaction.
Mr. Bark asked whether field usage fees could be specifically allocated to field maintenance.
Mr. Levine said that he would investigate but he believed this would require an ordinance change.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she has spoken to recreation and Public Works Directors in neighboring municipalities who have reported that when the leagues are required to maintain the fields they are not consistently and equally maintained. She also noted that the money collected this year in field usage fees was only $6,000. She said that Mr. Crossland should be part of the discussion as he would have information on the number of man hours spent on playing field maintenance. She did not know whether other park maintenance is separated from field maintenance.
Mr. Garvey continued to insist that the leagues should maintain the fields rather than pay fees for the Township to maintain them.
Mr. Levine said that it is not clear right now what tasks performed by public works are field specific. There are other aspects of park maintenance which are also performed for the benefit of the leagues using the fields.
The Board members agreed that the discussion of field usage fees should be postponed until additional information has been provided and Mr. Crossland is in attendance. The members would like information as follows:
Mr. Garvey said that he is very concerned that fees will be collected but spent elsewhere in the Township if the fees are part of the general fund. He feels that attempts to raise tournament fees are to boost the Township’s revenue at the leagues’ expense.
Mrs. Pawlenko reminded the Board that in 2010 the Board of Supervisors had adopted a new Township fee schedule. Because the schedule was adopted after some sports leagues had already begun their registration period, the Supervisors agreed that the field usage fees could remain at the 2009 rate to allow the leagues to better plan future registration.
Mr. Levine said that at this point the discussion of fees had been concluded. No decisions could be made without additional information. He asked the members to move onto the rest of the agenda.
Mr. Garvey said that the members had skipped the public comment portion of the meeting and moved directly into New Business. He insisted that he be permitted to make public comment.
Public Comment: Mr. Garvey said that there are many safety concerns at Helen Randle Park that need to be addressed. There are also some items to be addressed which had been part of the field swap agreement.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that it is her understanding that the fence issues Mr. Garvey had been complaining about have been addressed. She suggested that he put his specific safety concerns in writing so that she and Mr. Crossland can determine what needs to be done. A fencing contractor had been used to address the issues he had already called to the Township’s attention.
Mr. Garvey said that the Township has required him to fill out a lengthy special events permit form for each tournament Rock Softball hosts. This is a burden on the volunteers.
Mrs. Pawlenko explained that the Township created the event form in 2008. The form asks for specific information so that each Township department can plan for the event. Fire, EMS, Police and County Board of Health must all be alerted of an influx of people to the Township to be sure that everyone is safe and that the Township’s resources are adequate for the event. She noted that the Township has waived this requirement for some smaller events; only the Township Assistant Manager can waive this requirement. She agreed with Mr. Levine that it might be helpful to set criteria for requiring the long event permit form.
Mr. Garvey complained that the Township has been very difficult about parking at Helen Randle Park, not permitting parking on grass areas. He would like a gravel parking area installed or permission to park on the grass for the next tournament. The grass is dead and not used and should be made available to tournament attendees.
Mr. Levine said that there are ordinance requirements for the number of parking spaces required and/or permitted in the park. The Township requires that adequate parking be available for the number of attendees at the tournament, either in the existing parking lots or at satellite locations. It might be that the tournaments are too big for the site, not that the site has inadequate parking.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that there will be a pre-tournament meeting with League representatives and the Township’s department heads. The question of parking on the grass will be investigated prior to the meeting. She also said that there has been negative feedback from nearby residents about these tournaments.
Mr. Clancy said that when considering parking for tournaments, it must be assumed that, unlike during regular season play, the attendees will arrive early and stay all day, whether they have games or not. Parking must be adequate for all attendees for the duration of the event.
Mr. Levine said that while he agreed that procedures should be standardized for special events he did not think any changes could be implemented in time for the fall season. He did not want to continue the discussion any further without input from Mr. Crossland and without facts and figures.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of August 4, 2010. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 7-0-2, with Ms. Porter and Mr. McMenamin abstaining.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that Department revenues are down 1% and participation is down 1% so far this year. Comcast has again offered to sponsor a Candy Cane Hunt at Robert’s Ridge Park this December.
Mrs. Pawlenko provided copies of the Wolverine schedule for work at Veterans Park. She noted that Mr. Crossland feels the plan is inadequate without irrigation or rain.
Mrs. Pawlenko briefly discussed an Eagle Scout project for building a brick walkway in Veterans Park leading to the pavilion. Commemorative bricks could be sold honoring veterans of the armed forces. The members were supportive of this idea but agreed to discuss it in greater detail at the October meeting.
Mrs. Pawlenko said another Eagle Scout would like his project to be benches and signage at the new skate park.
(Messrs. Bark and McMenamin and Ms. Porter left the meeting at this point.)
Other Business, Smoke Free Parks: Mrs. Pawlenko provided sample signs from the Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth and asked for feedback on the different designs.
Mr. Levine asked that due to the late hour this item be tabled.
Senior Fitness: Mrs. Sutton reported that she did not have success in seeking any financial commitments from any of the Township’s senior organizations or facilities for this project.
Mr. Levine said that he has recently become aware of some grant opportunities for this project. He also thought it might have some public support. Many residents would like to see recreation for adults and seniors, as the majority of the Park and Recreation Board’s efforts have been toward children and youth.
Newtown Creek Coalition: Mrs. Sutton reported that the next Creek clean up day is October 9, 2010.
Mr. Levine asked that, due to the late hour, all other reports be tabled.Mrs. Sutton moved to adjourn at 9:45 PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0.