|Council again pitches high and tight to sports groups|
|Written by Don Mann|
|Monday, 07 March 2011 17:04|
by Don Mann
It looked a lot like an instant replay of its February 15 meeting, though this time Jeff Glickman didn’t abstain from the vote.
After handing down a 3-2-2 decision to uphold Woodinville Field’s higher rental rates three weeks ago, the Woodinville City Council took another swing at it on Tuesday.
But for the affected youth sports organizations, the song remained the same.
The council voted 4-2-1 to leave the rental rates as they were amended in August of 2010, which was double the previous rates, effectively telling eight youth sports organizations to pay up or pull out.
Council members Liz Aspen and Scott Hageman were opposed, and Paulette Bauman abstained once again, wary of conflict of interest allegations as her daughter plays on a team that rents the fields.
The dispute began when Woodinville Finance Director Jim Katica informed the organizations they had been wrongly under-billed by former city staff members for 2011 field permits, booked erroneously in 2010 at previous prices. Brian Marantz, president of Woodinville Little League, and Helen Jackson, president of Woodinville West Little League, claim they were urged by parks and recreation staff members to apply for permits before Dec. 31 in order to lock in 2010 fees.
Marantz, who applied and paid for permits last June for this March — three months before the council raised the rates — and again in September for the remainder of the 2011 season, said he was shocked to learn the city was demanding an additional $6,305 for use of the fields.
He claims the permits represent a binding contract, but City Attorney Greg Rubstello said otherwise.
"The groups have a right to back out and and get refunded," he said.
According to Katica, the city stands to lose $31,000 in budgeted revenue if the fees are not recovered in full.
Aspen once again stood on the side of the permit holders. "I have heartburn over the fact that we’re trying to turn this into a budget issue," she said. "We made the mistake and we need to fix it. I do not feel comfortable just saying ‘tough luck’ to our user groups. I’m embarrassed."
After acknowledging the unfortunate snafu, Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders made a motion to leave field rental rates as set in August — $40 per hour for local youth groups as opposed to $20.
"This is disappointing and I’m sorry we have to do it to you but there was a lot of lead time with regard to field rental rates," she said.
"It’s not a good idea in the grand scheme of things for the city to be held to the misstatements of its staff."
Hageman disagreed, noting the $31,000 was a small fraction of the city’s annual $12 million budget.
"When we talk about these sports fields we’re talking about our kids," he said. "$31,000 versus hundreds of kids? I’m going with the kids.
"It’s a no-brainer ... And anyone who says $31,000 is more important than the recreational health of their children is missing the point."
Mayor Chuck Price maintained a bottom-line stance.
"This discussion is just a repeat three times over of our process that we started back in July," he said. "On August 2 the rates were decided and on September 14 the resolution was adopted. The (sports) associations knew what the rates were and now they’re coming with these statements about contracts."
He said the sports organizations were given ample time to budget accordingly.
"That’s why we postponed it to January 1 so they could budget for that," he said. "We’re down to a bare-bones city. I think we need to stick to our guns."
He also asked Bauman to withdraw her abstention. "That’s sending the wrong message," he said. "We were all put on this council to make the tough decisions."
Glickman moved to amend the motion to add a payment deferment program for the affected organizations. It failed 4-2-1, with Aspen, Boundy-Sanders, Price and Talmas opposed with Hageman abstaining.
In an e-mail sent to the youth sports community Wednesday morning, Marantz expressed his disappointment in the decision and was unsure of the next step. "I’m investigating our options, but this isn’t the end," he wrote. "Some of you didn’t elect me as president of Woodinville Little League to let the city run roughshod over our youth."
written by Kalani, March 15, 2011