Monte user fees won’t see future refunds

A resolution to refund Montesano parks users for fees paid to the city failed for lack of a majority on Feb. 13.

In 2017, four groups paid user fees to the City of Montesano for exclusive use of city parks for their respective sports. Essentially, that meant the group could hold practice and play games at a specific park without fear of a time conflict with another group or individuals.

Each user group paid a fee for those agreements. The fee was negotiated between each user group, so the fees varied in price.

Montesano Youth Soccer club paid $2,000, Montesano Summer Baseball paid $450, Montesano Girls Softball Association paid $1,500, and the Montesano School District paid $25,000 for improvements and agreed to a $5,000 fee for the year.

Councilman Robert Hatley had asked the council consider a change in policy that would allow user groups to receive a refund for their user fee for financial contributions to field maintenance during their seasons for future user agreements. The user groups would have had to pay for twice the amount in improvements to receive a refund for the user fee. For example, a user group that paid a $2,000 user fee would have to contribute $4,000 for maintenance or improvements to have its fee refunded.

Most user groups are agreeable to the user agreements and fees. City Councilman Ian Cope — who also is involved in Montesano Youth Soccer (MYS) and softball — said MYS raised some $100,000 for Beacon Field. That group, according to Montesano Chief Financial Officer Doug Streeter, also agreed to pay a $2,000 fee in 2017. Cope said MYS was agreeable to that fee.

Mayor Vini Samuel agreed that the consensus is positive among user groups.

“I have four user groups that are happy. I have one user group that is not happy,” Samuel said. “Those four user groups work really well together. No one has complained about the one user group, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Recently, Montesano Little League has been at odds with the city regarding user fees. The organization contributes thousands of dollars in park maintenance, both financially and in kind. They’ve asked to lock the field during the season and during bad weather in order to protect their investment in park maintenance. The city is opposed to locking the field.

Montesano Little League notes that the field — Nelson Field — was donated to the city specifically for little league.

In-kind donations were a discussion point during the council meeting on Feb. 13. Samuel said she negotiates the contracts with each user group allowing for in-kind contributions to offset the fee.

Hatley wanted in-kind contributions to work toward a park fee refund. Samuel, however, cautioned that not all in-kind donations benefit the city.

“There’s a difference in whether or not the user groups are working with the city to improve the field or their specific sport,” Samuel said. “When they choose to improve the city field, that’s a little different than if they do something else.”

Ensuring that each user agreement is a benefit to both the city and the respective user group has been important to Samuel, she said.

“Every use agreement — every entity I have negotiated with — we both, the user and the city, have been relatively happy with the end product,” Samuel said. “There have been no use agreements that have been brought to the council that I don’t perceive as a win-win.”

If all of the user groups were to sign the same user agreements and pay the same fees they had in 2017, the city would have $8,950 for park maintenance in 2018. Councilman Dan Wood said arguing about funding issues were not reasonable in this context.

“We ended last year at $317,000 (a surplus),” Wood said. “Imagine we had at the end of the year $6,000 less out of $311,000 — is that not still an extraordinary story? If we were sitting here and said, ‘You know, we’re going to end the year at $311,000 but if we charge our youth sports leagues another $6,000 we could be at $317,000,’ I think we would view this conversation a little differently.”

Following a vote, Hatley’s proposed ordinance failed. Hatley, Wood and Councilman Clint Bryson voted for motion. Councilmen Ian Cope and Dave Skaramuca, and Councilwoman Kim Cristobal voted against the change. Councilman Tyler Trimble was excused from the meeting.

A tie-breaking vote was not necessary, however Mayor Samuel cast a vote against the potential change as well.

No user group agreements have been signed for 2018, although the city has planned for user fees in the approved 2018 budget.