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Schools to charge for use of athletic fields

April 04, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Fees for community groups and athletic leagues who want to use high school stadiums in Washington County could range from $250 to $500 for only a few hours.

Additional fees for custodial and utility costs will be charged to the groups if a proposed policy on stadium use is adopted.

The Washington County Board of Education approved the first reading of the policy Tuesday with a 5-2 vote. Board Members W. Edward Forrest and William Staley were opposed.

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Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent of school operations for Washington County Public School, said that stadiums have not been used regularly by community groups and this is the first policy that would set standard fees for use.

He said school officials wanted to establish reasonable fees.

"We want the public to use (the stadiums)," Michael said. "We just have to recover the operating costs."

Every public high school in Washington County, except Washington County Technical High School, has a stadium.

Warren Barrett, principal of Hancock Middle-Senior High School, said the Washington County Junior Football League uses the high school's stadium on Tuesdays in the fall. A member of that league, the Hancock Raiders, has played its games there for years, he said.

The cost for that group would be $125 per hour, according to the proposed policy, and a $200 deposit would be required.

A minimum custodial fee of $25 per hour and a $30 building utility fee also would be required, according to the policy. Barrett said he did not if the team was paying to use the stadium.

The cost for a Little League team to use a high school stadium for three hours under the new policy would be $375, plus the $200 deposit. If lighting was used, that would cost an additional $150 for the three hours of use.

Scouting groups would pay the same costs as Little League groups under the policy.

Don Shepard, Scout Executive for the Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America, said the cost to use high school stadiums would be too much. The Mason-Dixon Council represents Washington County and Fulton and Franklin counties in Pennsylvania.

Shepard said the organization has not typically used athletic fields or stadiums but has used school gymnasiums for events.

"I understand the reason the school has to charge the fees, for maintenance and upkeep," he said. "I'm not opposed to the fees. It would just preclude us from using the facilities."

A public/private partnership was formed to raise funds to build Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School, which was completed last year. At the time, stadium committee members said the stadium would be a resource for the community.

James Childerston, a member of that committee, said Wednesday that the committee always understood there would be fees to use the facility.

"We had nothing at all to do with the establishment of fees," he said. "What we do know, and had hoped, as we were raising money in good faith, is that it would be available to the public, and that is the case."

Childerston said that once the track is completed at Mike Callas Stadium, it will be available for public use. He said that charging a fee to use the stadium will help defray some of the costs associated with replacing the artificial turf, which he said could be needed in 10 or more years.

"You don't want it to become cost prohibitive," Childerston said. "We were hoping there would be room for some negotiation with some of the groups."

Possible fee waivers were discussed Tuesday during the Board of Education's business meeting.

School and school-related groups, like the PTA, would not be charged a fee to use a stadium, Michael said.

Hagerstown Community College and other tutoring/instructional organizations would be charged a minimum of $250 for two hours, plus $125 for each additional hour.

A custodial fee of $50 for the first two hours and $25 for each additional hour, and a building utility fee of $60 for the first two hours and $30 for each additional hour, also would be charged, according to the policy. A $500 deposit would be required.

Robert T. "Bo" Myers, HCC's director of athletic and leisure studies, said none of the college's athletic groups use the stadiums.

"If we were to, we would work with the Board of Education to pay any reasonable fees," he said. "We'd figure out how we were going to pay that. It doesn't sound exorbitant ... just reasonable maintenance."

Michael said the custodial fee, which is about $25 per hour, would cover the costs of cleaning after stadiums are used.

Barrett said Hancock Middle-Senior High School's custodian typically spends about two hours on Wednesdays picking up trash and emptying trash cans after the Hancock Raiders' games.

"They make a very good attempt to clean up," Barrett said. "However, there's always some trash and barrels that need to be cleaned up."

Michael said that school officials also determined the cost to light the stadium in order to set the rate passed on to community groups. The cost to use stadium lighting is about $50 per hour.

"We determined what it would cost," he said. "That's how we got the fees. We can't flip the lights on and have it cost $500 and only charge $50."

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