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Schenectady City Council Considers Increased Fees To Use City Parks, Fields

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Schnectady City Hall

The Schenectady, New York city council is taking up a proposal to increase the cost to use many city-owned parks and fields.

The fee increase proposed was unanimously approved by the city council’s Health and Recreation Committee last week.  It goes before the full council Monday night. The proposed hike would increase some fees by $75. 

The proposal comes after nearly $1.5 million from New York state was used to upgrade Central Park, including renovations to a baseball field, the Music Haven Stage and tennis courts.

The baseball field, which had fallen into disuse, has been revamped with new sod, irrigation, bases, fencing, dugouts, and a scoreboard. Responding to a request for comment Monday, Councilman John Polimeni referred WAMC News to the Health and Recreation Committee meeting. Polimeni told The Daily Gazette Friday, “You have upgrades to the field and to the facility, and you have increased maintenance costs,” adding, “We have to account for all of those things.”

Will Bernacet, president of the Schenectady Babe Ruth League, which involves players aged 13 to 18, says the rate hike would be detrimental.

“You know we’re trying really hard to keep community baseball alive in Schenectady.  If outside travel organizations with deep pockets have more access to these parks than we do, we’ll suffer, we’ll lose numbers. We sponsor dozens of kids a year who can’t afford to pay fees and to just add cost to use the city parks, you know, plus the security deposit they’re talking about, it would be catastrophic to our organization,” says Bernacet.

There will also be a requirement for any leagues using the fields to pay a $1,500 security deposit. Leagues will be required to pay half at the beginning of the season.

Part of the proposal is a $225 per patrol car fee if police are called to an event at the parks for a legitimate public safety reason. That fee will be waived for medical calls.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who told WAMC News she will be out of town for Monday’s vote, expressed concern that it might be illegal to charge residents for police response to games and events.

City Attorney Carl Falotico:

“The city can’t charge for police services, fire services, whatever the regular services are that we have to provide to residents. So if the City Council decides that they wanted to, as part of our agreement with people when they use the baseball fields, include a fee or a penalty that says if the police come and it’s found to be a founded complaint by someone who is taking part in the activities, that fee gets assessed to them,” says Falotico.

Councilman Vincent Riggi, who sits on the Health and Recreation Committee, says he will be voting “no” on the proposal.

“Two members of the Health and Recreation Committee met to discuss this Tuesday without me present and in my opinion that is in violation of open meeting law, discussing city business. That is one reason I’m voting ‘no,’” Riggi said. “The other reason is I don’t think we had enough input from the people that will be affected by this.”

Councilman John Mootooveren, who chairs the Health and Recreation Committee, did not return a request for comment in time for broadcast.  The council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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