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City will wait until end of season to discuss field user agreements

The Montesano city administration has decided to wait until after the baseball and softball seasons end to begin negotiations of user agreements with organizations using Crait, Nelson and Vessey Fields.

City Administrator Kristy Powell had said in April that a resolution to split funds raised by selling advertising signs on the outfield fences at all three fields between the user groups and the city could be brought before the city council before the end of May. After a Vidette ran story about the proposal, the city had some backlash from parents and user groups who cried foul that half of their advertising revenue may be taken away. The city scrapped its initial plans.

Mayor Ken Estes said the city chose not to do a presentation until all of the options are explored and negotiations happen with the user groups to decide what is best for everyone.

“It is currently in pending mode because we are in the final weeks of the teams competing,” Estes said. “We’re not going to go in with any fixed ideas we are just going to go in with what is best and fairest.”

The city currently has a user agreements with Montesano Girls Softball Association for the use of Crait Field, Montesano Little League for Nelson Field and the Montesano Summer Baseball Program for Vessey Field that will run through January 2015, but the terms of the user agreements were called into question in April when Montesano Summer Baseball Program Director Paul Bialkowsky approached the City Council for the right for his group to sell advertising signs that would be placed on the outfield fence and collect all of the funds. The Montesano Girls Softball Association and Montesano Little League each have sold advertising signs for several years despite the fact that no part of the user agreements state whether the groups can or can’t sell the advertising space.

In February of 2009, Resolution 799 was written to provide for the selling of advertising signs to line the outfield wall at Vessey Field to be sold and the funds collected into a fund to be used for capital improvements on the field. No signs have been sold to date and the possible revenue source remains untapped.

While there has been no change to the resolution or a new resolution adopted, at a Parks Board meeting on June 4 there was a brief discussion of a draft resolution that would have each user group pay $1,000 per year for the use of the city fields.

Aberdeen has an agreement similar to what has been proposed with its youth sports organizations such as Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.

According to Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Director Karl Harris, the user groups pay a flat fee for the year and with that fee are guaranteed the field space for the months specified as their season and one tournament. The fees vary depending on the amount of use of the fields from $483 for the Babe Ruth program, which has two teams, to $1449 for the entire Little League program. Any games played in addition to the season or outside of the regularly scheduled times are charged at a rate of $30 per game for a grass infield and $20 per game for a dirt infield with a $10 fee for light usage. Harbor Youth Soccer payed a fee of $943 to Aberdeen for field usage and was charged for additional games at a rate of $20 for a full field and $15 for smaller or modified fields.

Included in the fee for field usage is the upkeep of the park along with all of the setup of the fields for a game. The Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department takes care of everything to maintain the fields including mowing, fertilization, and drainage work to each field as well as repairs from water line breaks and other repairs to the facility and even garbage pick up.

Estes said the city is not ready to take on any extra responsibility for the parks in addition to the $500 budgeted each year for each park even if fee model is enacted. The city currently mows all three of the fields, but any additional field maintenance is done by the user groups including game prep, replacement of sod and fill dirt. Montesano Girls Softball Association President Lynsi Polanco said the softball association has already spent close to $3,500 on materials to maintain the field this season.

Polanco said any added expense from the city whether it is a flat fee or a share of any sign revenue would most likely be passed onto the players participating in the sport through the user fee, which is currently $65 per player for MGSA.

The cost per player for Montesano Summer Baseball is already $250 per player and the main reason Bialkowsky brought up the signs was to help find a funding source to alleviate some of the high cost to play baseball. Any fee imposed by the city on the Montesano Summer Baseball group would be spread out among a smaller number of players and would push the fee to play toward $300 per player.

If the city were to decide to allow the user groups to keep the funds from the sign advertising it would be a help to Montesano Summer Baseball, but one that may not be seen for several years. The current resolution states that signs can be sold for $500 per year or $2,000 for five years, but the creation of those signs would be the responsibility of the user groups. MGSA actually loses money on the signs the first year after they are produced because the sign costs more to produce than the advertiser pays the first year. Following the same model, Montesano Summer Baseball may have to pass the sign costs onto the players as well.

(The city proposed a meeting with the directors of all of the user groups earlier this month, but the directors were unable to attend due to the busy schedule of the baseball and softball seasons.

While there continues to be much discussion on how the city will change the user agreements, Estes said there will be no changes until city administration and the user groups had been able to talk about what works for both sides.

“It is all in limbo right now,” Estes said. “As soon as the season is over then the user groups and the city will go into negotionations and come up with something that is good for all.”