User fees not the issue for minor ball

By Karen Fallon

A public meeting was held to discuss a fee schedule for a variety of recreational venues and new fees for service and rentals on April 4.

However, for a couple associated with minor baseball the issue quickly transitioned from user fees to users from outside the municipality being scheduled to use “the only premier ball diamond in town with a 90-foot base.”

“The issue is not user fees, everybody knows they are coming,” said Mark Beaudoin, Sr. Cardinal team member and General Amherst Bulldogs coach. “We have a $24-million facility and someone has to pay for it.”

“The issue on the table tonight is who are the users…we have one baseball diamond,” said Beaudoin, who noted there are five travel baseball teams, plus approximately three or four house league games, and a General Amherst team using the diamond.

“Between April and September first there is zero prime time baseball left,” said Beaudoin. “We have enough teams locally to keep it going,”

Chris Meloche, head coach for the “provincial finalists” Bantam Amherstburg Minor Baseball Club and board member of the Amherstburg Minor Baseball Association says that over the years minor ball has contributed to putting Amherstburg on the map with its numerous tournament wins and provincial crowns.”

However, he noted: “The schedule for fees for this facility should represent the fact that residents already pay taxes, helping in the payment of operating costs.

“We have always tried to keep costs low in order to give everyone a chance to learn about competition, team play, selflessness, sacrifice, determination, responsibility, diligence and endurance,” says Meloche who noted there has been a rumour circulating that a team from another municipality has been scheduled to play at the premiere diamond before an Amherstburg team.

“This would be considered a great disrespect to our coaches, players, volunteers and the community,” said Meloche. “That diamond is our house, our cathedral, it is a Cardinal diamond.”

It would be considered a “cardinal sin” to have an outside team playing on the premiere baseball diamond before a local team, says Mayor Wayne Hurst.

However, Dennis LaPorte, director of recreation and culture assured those in attendance that this isn’t the case.

Councillor John Sutton says that the town wants to work with the group to ensure that Amherstburg goes first in terms of those diamonds.

Although under financial pressure of ensuring recreational facilities are

viable, says Sutton, it won’t be done by “sacrificing Amherstburg.”

“If you want to save money let us take care of the maintenance of the fields,” said Beaudoin. “We took care of Town Park for ten years…we have enough volunteers that show up before games; we can do that.”

When it comes to indoor soccer, notes Laporte, “Our prime and non‐prime hours will allow our core users time on the turf at a lower rate. We will offer a senior rate to encourage day time usage and senior recreational activities. Our drop in rates will remain at a low cost to encourage family play and physical fitness among the clients in our area.”

In respect to minor hockey, says LaPorte, rates have been developed that they feel is: “Something that they are able to support over the next three years. The increase in our drop‐in rates is meant to cover the cost to provide the service and remains considerably lower than other local municipalities.”

The fees for the meeting rooms the community room and parks will be effective for 2011, whereas the fees for the rental of outdoor facilities will take effect in 2012, as will the fees for the ice rental, which will be implemented May 1, 2012.

According to the report: “We will now be offering hourly rates which will assist all rentals who are renting for a short period of time (example: Team meeting 1‐2 pm would be paying $60.00, with our new rates they would pay $20.00). This will assist with our facility usages. With a “per rental” rate many users are booking a full day for set‐up and take down, with our new rates they will book what they will be using, allowing maximum usage in all town facilities.”

In an effort to clarify a concern of a member of the audience in respect to a fee being applied for use of the in-door walking track at the new facility that issue, says Mayor Wayne Hurst, it was taken off the table and there will no fee attached to its use.

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