Thursday, May 23, 2019

City council approves park usage ordinance

The Harvard City Council voted 5-2 Nov. 25 to approve an ordinance that would require groups wanting to reserve park land for more than one day of use to submit a schedule of all games, practices and/or any other dates to fulfill the obligations of their season. The ordinance also requires groups to provide a certificate of insurance.

The ordinance will directly affect groups like the HERS League, the Boys League, AYSO and Harvard Junior Tackle, which use the parks to provide activities for Harvard’s youth.

Voting for the ordinance were aldermen Mike Clarke, Jeremy Adams, Chuck Marzahl, Brian Leyden and Carl Opper. Votes against were cast by alderman Crystal Musgrove and Raul Meza. Alderman Phil Ulmer was not in attendance.

The Harvard Parks and Recreation Committee had voted unanimously to recommend to the Harvard City Council a fee schedule for usage of city resources and for organized activities in city parks at its Sept. 3 meeting. The proposal was tabled at the Oct. 6 City Council meeting after there was considerable input from the public to allow for more discussion.

A proposed fee schedule for usage of city parks and property is included with the ordinance but no fee amounts were included. The fee amounts would need to be approved by the City Council before implementation.

City of Harvard Administrator Dave Nelson said fees will most likely be discussed during the upcoming budget cycle. The City Council had agreed to wave the fees for the affected organizations for one year.

The city of Harvard has struggled with budget issues in its Parks and Recreation Department for several years, and the committee has discussed a solution for some time.

Nelson said budget issues are caused by a decrease in the assessed valuation and the property tax cap. According to Nelson, in 2010, $114,547 in property taxes was generated for the park fund. In 2014, the amount was $76,883, a decrease of approximately 32 percent.

HERS President Jose Saucedo spoke at the meeting and said that he was concerned once the fees are implemented, they would be continually increased over time.

“It’s not the $2 or $3 or $4 that we are going to charge these girls in 2016 if this passes,” Saucedo said. “It’s the year after that and the year after that and the year after that. That’s what I’m concerned about.”

Adams, who is the president of the local AYSO club and has a daughter in the HERS league, said he understands the concerns over this ordinance and believes the fees should be kept at a minimum once they are implemented.

“It’s a touchy situation with these fees,” Adams said. “It’s one those where we need to figure out to find a solution to make everyone happy.”