Fees for False River Park to be levied for first time
The Pointe Coupee Parish Council drew opposition from a resident over rental fees it will impose this year for the first time for use of baseball and softball fields at False River Park.
The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury approved the fee schedule three years ago, but the parish has not yet imposed it.
New Roads resident Karla Guillory, a concerned resident, said she opposes the fees.
She said during the Feb. 11 meeting that she considers the fee unfair because it levies the charge to residents who already pay taxes for the facilities.
“I know things have changed, but we’ve never been charged, and those charges will add up for families who use the batting cages, when they’re already paying taxes for them,” she said.
Parish President Major Thibaut told council members it has to follow the ordinance on the books, which will require new recreation director Paul Armand to collect the fees this year.
“I can’t speak about something approved before last year, but it’s our job to carry out ordinances the previous jury or our council set,” Thibaut said.
“I’m not sure why it wasn’t followed last year, and I’ll take the blame for that, but we have someone brand new in place and he’s following the policies.”
The fee applies to teams that are not part of the Pointe Coupee Parish Recreation Department.
The new fee schedule for use of individual fields will charge school-affiliated teams $10 per hour for use of the park with lights, and $5 without lights. Non-school affiliated teams will pay $20 per hour with lights and $10 per hour without lights.
Tournament fees for schools will be $150 per field per day, and $250 for non-school affiliated tourneys. Use for tournaments will go for $150 per day for benefits and nonprofit events.
The rental fees will be paid at the time of booking. Teams which present Pointe Coupee Parks and Recreation a game schedule with a minimum of 25 percent of scheduled games as home games at False River Park will have rental fees waived for the duration of that season.
The fees cover grass-cutting, labor, the cost of gas and paint, along with lighting in a practice or game time.
“After looking at all the different factors that go into maintaining and preparing the fields for a game or practice, what we charge doesn’t come close to what it costs us,” Thibaut said.
The fees have already prompted some parents to bring their children to neighboring parishes for baseball or softball, Guillory said.
West Baton Rouge Parks & Recreation allowed Pointe Coupee families free use of an Erwinville baseball/softball complex.
Guillory said her son played in Erwinville last year because they did not have a team for him in Pointe Coupee.
“Our kids don’t even live there and they’re letting us use the fields and batting cages free of charge,” she said. “We may just have to keep practicing in West Baton Rouge Parish, and that makes me sad for this parish and for the kids here.
“I know ten dollars isn’t a whole lot of money, but it adds up,” Guillory said. “I know for all of you it’s a double-edged sword, but I also feel we have to do better for the kids.”
A list of field rental fees in other parishes showed that the Iberville Parks & Recreation District also waives fees.
West Baton Rouge and Iberville generate more than $1 million in annual revenue for recreation, which allows more programs without a charge. It’s a different story for other parishes in the area.
West Feliciana Park near St. Francisville charges $25 per hour for travel teams – lights or no lights – and does not allow use for school teams.
The Central Sports Complex and Zachary Youth Park levy a $20 fee for school teams and travel teams, with or without lights.
Two baseball/softball hotbeds in a rapidly growing part of Lafayette Parish also charge fees. The Broussard Sports Complex charges all teams $30 park rentals – without or without lights – while Youngsville collects $20.
West Baton Rouge Parks & Recreation benefits from a dedicated 5-mil property tax to fund its facilities.
Armand said he has approached the local high schools – Catholic-Pointe Coupee, False River Academy and Livonia – about tournaments at the parks. He has also reached out to Krotz Springs, Port Barre and other areas, but to no avail.
“Nobody wants to pull that trigger just yet,” he said.
Thibaut hopes someday the parish can operate without a fee for parks.
The costs to keep ballparks useable – including grass-cutting and other maintenance – make the fees a necessity, he said.
“Taxes don’t cover all the costs,” he said. “Every dollar we bring in – fees, admission and concessions – go toward upgrades, and it’s been a long time since we’ve done improvements to our recreation facilities.
“It would be nice if we didn’t have to charge it, but the unfortunate reality is that nothing in this world comes free,” Thibaut said.