Despite an impassioned plea from the president of the Tewksbury Boys Basketball League, the School Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt a new Facilities Use Policy.
The new policy includes a $15 per participant fee, which the committee said would go toward regular repairs and needed improvements to many of the school district's gymnasiums.
"The No. 1 question we are getting is 'where is the money going?'" said committee member Dennis Francis, who served on the Facility Use Policy Sub Committee. "The business manager will be making a separate line item (in the budget) for gym maintenance and repairs."
Earlier in the evening, Ken Miano president of the TBBL, gave an impassioned plea on behalf of several youth basketball volunteers and parents in attendance. Miano suggested that if the policy were passed without the fees, the TBBL would be willing to discuss contributing financial to gym upkeep and improvements.
"People who know me know that I've offered time and time again to invent some money in the gyms," he said. Miano said the league did have a reserve fund but contested the notion that the league could absorb the new fees without passing on the cost to the families.
Miano also said he talked to youth sports officials in other towns and found that they were not hit with a "per participant" fee by their towns.
Some committee member admitted not being fans of the fee component of the new policy but felt it was unavoidable.
"I do see (now) that the need is there," said committee Vice Chair Joseph Russell. "There are times that things happen in the schools where we have to incur the costs. I hope some day to see all the fees gone. I'm sorry that this has to be done."
"We're not doing this to punish people. We're not doing this to make (facilities) less accessible," said committee member Jayne Miller. "It's out of necessity."
Earlier this year, the School Department assumed oversight of the town's recreation facilities and programs. It inherited a policy that called for a $15 per user fee for town fields. Committee members said the new fee for the school department buildings falls in line with the town's policy.
The participant fee wont just be applied to gyms. It will be applied to all fields, auditoriums, cafeterias and other spaces available for rent that the School Department oversees.
Francis pointed out that the additional fee was just one aspect to the new policy. He outlined changes that include:
- Increasing insurance requirements from $500,000 to $1 million-$3 million aggregate.
- No residency requirement for groups wishing to rent facilities.
- Requiring youth groups to ensure that that all coaches/supervisors have been CORI checked.
- A list of recognized Tewksbury youth sports groups that will get preferential treatment for facility use.
- Use of the Recreation Center under the School Department. The complex on Livingston Street will also be available for rental.
- No charge for the PAC's for functions. Janitorial and kitchen costs will be borne by the School Department.