Selectmen set new recreation fees
GREENWICH — It will cost the same to go to the beach or the town pool next year, and to play a round of golf at most times of day, but entrance fees are set to go up at the Dorothy Hamill Rink.
The Board of Selectmen has approved new fees for town recreation programs next year.
Greenwich ice skaters will have to pay more starting January 1. Under the approved plan, admission for people ages five to 15 for the rink will go up a dollar to $7; for those 16 to 64 the fee will go up $2 to $10 per person. Renting the rink will now also cost $475 an hour, up from $435, and instruction fees at the rink are set to increase as well.
Before the board voted Thursday, First Selectman Peter Tesei shared feedback he had received from a resident saying that the town should not raise the fees until a new rink is open.
Director of Parks and Recreation Joseph Siciliano defended the increase, saying it was keeping within the market.
“We looked at other rinks that are surrounding us, and knowing we haven’t increased the general admission fee in three years, and we’ve had some additional expenses, the $10 fee for adults is well in line and more at the bottom of what other rinks are charging,” Siciliano said. “Those are updated or newer rinks. We’re just trying to keep current on our fee schedule.”
In Stamford, Chelsea Piers charges a low rate of $16 per person, the Twin Rinks charges $9 per person with a $4.50 skate rental fee, and the municipally-owned Terry Conners Rink charges $6 for children and $8 for adults.
Selectman Sandy Litvack voted against the increase for the rink fees and noted the current condition of the facility, which is scheduled to be replaced with a new, upgraded rink in the coming years.
“The fact is the rink has deteriorated and is deteriorating every day,” Litvack said. “We have a problem there and I don’t think we should be putting that on the back of (the rink’s users).”
Siciliano said, in addition to a professional evaluation, a committee of town employees, officials and “rink enthusiasts” has been working for a year to set design and service specs for a new rink. His department has included a $250,000 request in the 2019-20 municipal budget for preliminary architecture and engineering work, including some site design.
A $5 million placeholder is in the town’s capital 15-year plan for 2021-22 to cover construction, but the number could be adjusted once plans are done.
“It’s going to be a three-year project and our goal is to get that in the works starting July 1 after we get this evaluation done,” Siciliano said.
Both Tesei and Selectman John Toner voted for the rink-fee increase, as well as all of the other proposed fees, which are reviewed yearly.
There will not be a cost increase for yearly beach and park passes or guest passes during beach season. For 2019, it will still cost $35 for a seasonal pass to get into Greenwich’s beaches, parks and the pool and the $7 guest pass will also remain the same price.
The price had gone up $2 for the 2018 beach season.
Most of the fees at the Griffith E. Harris municipal golf course will remain the same for 2019, but there will be a $1 increase for “twilight golf” rounds that take place late in the day. That fee is going up for club members and non-members.
There will be increases in 2019 for the rental of town tennis courts, from $36 per hour to $38 an hour.
The instruction fees for the town’s field hockey, swimming, basketball, and kids and youth soccer programs will go up $5. And the cost of private swimming lessons will rise from $30 to $50 for a half-hour, and new semi-private classes will be offered for $30 per child.
The most significant increase is for the town’s playgroup program, which is a licensed pre-school in the Cos Cob Community Center. Under the new fees, the group will cost $2,966, up from $2,434 for the school year for three days a week. For four days a week the fee will be $3,955, up from $3,246, and five days a week will cost $4,944, which is an increase from the current level of $4,058.
Litvack questioned why the cost was going up so much. Siciliano said additional hours and services were being added to the program.
“It’s not about raising the fee arbitrarily, it’s about an additional service to the preschool itself,” Siciliano said.
At Thursday’s meeting, Siciliano also updated the selectmen on what is happening with the plans for a new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. He said a Board of Parks and Recreation committee is working on initiatives for the new building and determining what the public wants, and more information is expected to be released in 2019 with regard to design plans.
Litvack told his colleagues he wanted to see more information in the future about how and why fee increases are recommended, including data on revenue and cost for town services to help inform decisions on votes. Tesei agreed saying it was a “valid and substantive point” for future votes.