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11/15/2011 10:00:00 PM
'Quality of life' issues central to Prescott parks/library discussion
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierAmong the revenue-generating ideas that Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes suggested Tuesday is hosting more tournaments, like this summer softball tournament in July of this year.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Among the revenue-generating ideas that Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes suggested Tuesday is hosting more tournaments, like this summer softball tournament in July of this year.
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - After experiencing deep cuts in recent years, both the parks and recreation and library departments made strong pitches this week, touting their value to the community.

And while there was little debate about the quality-of-life benefits of Prescott's parks and library, some discussion arose on the costs of providing the services.

As a part of an ongoing series of budget-related workshops that the City of Prescott is conducting to prepare for its 2012 budget deliberations, the two departments gave detailed reports on Tuesday about current staffing levels, possible sources of additional revenues and wish lists for the future.

Joe Baynes, who became the city's permanent parks and recreation director this week after serving several months as acting director, led off the discussion by maintaining that parks not only provide benefits to local residents, but also serve as a magnet for tourists.

The visitors come for the major sports tournaments that the department sponsors, Baynes said, as well as for the recreation that the city's system of parks, trails and lakes offers.

Since the start of the economic downturn in about 2008, Baynes said parks and recreation staffing has dropped from 31 employees to 18 employees.

In order to be "fully funded," he said the parks and recreation department would need an additional $154,000. That would help to pay for: more seasonal employees; a new mowing system that would allow crews to mow ball-field grass in about half the time; and an "evapo-transpiration" weather station that would improve the precision of turf irrigation.

Among the revenue-generating ideas that Baynes suggested - although his presentation stressed that the ideas were "not recommendations" - were: increasing parking fees at the four automated kiosks at city lakes/trails; increasing the city's general-fund revenues by hosting more special events and tournaments; increasing fees for tournaments and league play; and developing more camping at Watson and/or Goldwater Lake.

While noting that "parks and recreation is never going to pay for itself," Councilman Steve Blair suggested that raising fees could help the city put more money back into the parks. On the idea of increasing the current $2 parking fee (at three city lakes and the Peavine Trail) to $4, for instance, Blair maintained that $4 for a day of entertainment at Goldwater Lake would still be a good value.

In a separate presentation, Library Director Toni Kaus also stressed the benefits that the library brings to the community, calling it a "learning center of our community," and an "anchor" of downtown Prescott.

And while the library has seen a staffing decrease of about 20 percent over the same five years that it has experienced a 40 percent increase in use, Kaus said a large pool of volunteers, technological advances and increased efficiency have helped to bridge the gap.

In order to be "fully funded," Kaus said the library would need about $204,600 more - money that she said would go toward restoring Wednesday-morning hours at the downtown library and increased services for the 9-to-18-years-olds who frequent the library after school.

As one way to stretch library resources in its most-used areas, Kaus suggested discontinuing computer access at the local Prescott Community Center (Adult Center). Already, the library plans to close its branch at the Prescott Gateway Mall in the spring of 2012.

As potential revenue generators, Kaus listed a possible fee for the use of the library's meeting rooms, and a property-tax increase through the Yavapai County Free Library District - a move that Kaus allowed is not under the jurisdiction of the city.

While Blair suggested adding a charge for Internet use, Kaus said a portion of the library's state money comes with the requirement that such "core services" be free.

That led Blair to suggest that "maybe (there is) an opportunity of putting a parking kiosk in for people who drive to the library."

While Kaus said such a fee likely would be unpopular with library users, Blair said, "It wasn't popular at the Peavine Trail either, and it's raised $50,000."

The budget workshops kicked off in October, and will run through January. Future workshops include a Dec. 6 discussion of internal service funds (fleet, facilities, risk management, and airport), and a Dec. 20 look at the Antelope Hills Golf Course.

Related Stories:
• Editorial: Never underestimate the value of parks, library
• Prescott Council workshop focuses on Parks & Rec, library

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: A View from the Outside

Charging to park at the library?
Charging for Internet service at the library?

Who is this Blair guy and what the *&%# is his problem?

What about a public library does he not understand?

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: open book

@ Careful there ... : Your point is well-taken.

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: @ JOE BAYNES

DO TELL Joe how many more dollars are needed for TURF IRRIGATION. Please figure in managers, assistants, and staff. And don't forget pensions and medical. Much more than you wish to disclose?

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article comment by: DIVIDE AND CONQUER

This articles has brought a SMILE to my worn face. How many would you need at $ 55000 dollars JOE? The city golf course has TWO now and still the debt keeps growing. Once again ONE was MORE than enough. Is it possible that your information on the subject is FAULTY. In which case council has been given a LOAD of. CUTTING was the QUESTION not ADDING.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Can't but note that the phrase,

Poor Mr. Blair. He is trying his hardest to make the library a cash cow for the city. To hell with the public. But he did manage to make the library HIS cash cow for his Blind Brothers Company installed all the window coverings in the renovated library.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Hey. Blair. Lets think 'outside the box'.

I thought of something you missed. Pay toilets in the library. That's the ticket!

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Careful there, 'Open Book'

Don't remind the Blair that there are hundreds of 'free' hiking and biking trails in the Prescott area. If he could find a way he would install turnstiles at the beginning of every one.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

I think it is absurd all the "fees" and crap that all these elected officials and others want to charge... if I remember correctly, I pay sales tax, property taxes, state taxes and federal taxes, and a chunk of the taxes I pay are used to support these public services... MAYBE there are other options?! Pay salaries, not machines to start! In the near future, I feel that I may not be able to afford youth sports for my kids, or additional educational resources for them either... maybe I should just get them a Bar membership and reserve a jail cell for them? Since apparently they will have nothing to do in this town but cause trouble if all this goes through as our officials hope! Well to my suggestion: The city should start running their own "rec" sporting leagues... baseball/softball, basketball, football etc. In creating activities worth paying for, it will help with the cost of maintaining the fields/courts that are used, it provides a secondary option to the kids of our community instead of having to play travel, or in PV's case of watching the JR Suns basketball get run to the ground... it provides additiona employment opportunity that could be part time with that and part time in other areas of need... AND it keeps our kids busy doing something productive... For the library, if your going to increase or charge fees, do so on overdue books and actually collect... review books when they are returned for damage and collect... i know this was a bit of a babbling mess of run on sentences and such, but it just irks me when you try to hit the public facilities that you have no right to... these are for the people by the people... or has that phrase been completely abandoned?

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Life Quality

Turn the club house into an wi-fi internet cafe with library resources, charge a fee. Convert the golf course or half of it into a sports field and facility, introduce other sports and add programs for the youth, promote events,. Tie it to the trail system and transit stops. I've always found the term "quality of life" to be value laden with income bias.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Hanna Faith

Leave it to Blair to offer up DOUBLE TAXATION as a solution once again.

He does not respect or understand the role of places like libraries in a healthy community, he only sees it as an untapped revenue stream (nice blinds in there Steve....).

Director Joe Baynes observation/plan of 'having more people come here' pretty much cements his place in the Prescott government genius club.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Glenn J. Gooding

How about making sure that the additional $154,000 is not used to mow the grass and water the Golf Course. The amount of money the city has spent on this white elephant versus the return on investment is unacceptable. Get some bidders like the Palmer group to come in and run it. The city obviously does not know how as it is about $4 million in the hole and the hole is getting deeper.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: My View From The Sidelines

How about cutting some of the inflated salaries in the administrative structure and letting go some of the totally unnecessary bureaucrats during this time of financial austerity? What the city needs is essential services and all the quality-of-life services it possibly can fund. What the city does not need is a bloated and overpaid bureaucracy. We need only boots on the ground, with fewer supervisors and administrators. The city needs workers and doers, not desk jockeys. Also, the golf course needs to be reviewed carefully and objectively to determine its actual cost to city taxpayers and its true benefits, if any, to taxpayers other than a few golfers. How many City of Prescott residents use the golf course each year, and what percentage of the city population do they comprise? Compared to the library? Compared to the park and trails system? What does the city provide for its youth? Vested interests and entrenched politicians and bureaucrats again attempt to rule the day. Prescott badly needs a change of direction, with some people on its council who put the taxpayers before established special interests.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Captain Howdy

It seems that in today's economic times, putting a higher burden on residents seems silly. Mr. Blair should also remeber that the most liabrary users are of low incomes. They may not have a computer at home, so they use the one at the liabrary. They may not have money to have a babysitter on a daily basis so their children wait at the liabrary after school. That being said and the fact that this city used funds for a golf course that could have been and should have been use to better help the many, ie people that use parks and the liabrary, than the few, ie people that play golf, is sad.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Pay to park at the Library

A free Library, yet you have to pay to park there!? Parking is already hard to find in the area, and traffic would only increase as people drive around & around to find a "free" space.

How many people using the Library to look for jobs can afford to pay for parking?

Why not put parking meters around the Square & City Hall to generate revenue? Why not charge for parking at the Garage every day to generate City revenue? The City Library should not be looked at to generate revenue.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: lil johnnyo

Gee, amazing Mr. Blair wants to raise the fee on trails & lakes, add one for the library but it never crossed his little mind that we should put in Kiosks at the ball fields. We all know what services his family uses!

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: open book

The city should hire twice as many people to mow the grass rather than buy an expensive machine. Unemployment is rather high here in Prescott.

If Prescott charges $4 to use a city park I will boycott all of them. There is a wonderful assortment of free trails in the Prescott National Forest. Paying $4 to use your city park like paying $5 for using your bank card.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: A 'parking kiosk' at the public library? Exactly where would you put that, Mr. Blair?

Re: Mr. Blair's typically absurd, uninformed comments and suggestions for the future of our public library: Firstly he is not a library user. His comments reminded one how painful it is to hear a council member expound on something he knows absolutely nothing about. His veiled threat for closing our library (apparently a branch library was closed in Phoenix) were a new low, even for Mr. Blair. Councilman Blair would like to charge library patrons (and park users) for literally everything they do. To get in the door, to get a library card, to use the computers, to use a meeting room, even to park ... and if a fee is already in place add a few more dollars to it! In nearly every case the changes he suggested would cost more to implement than they would realize in additional revenue. In several cases the library would lose substantial state and county library grants if it attempted to charge for what are core public library services. You have to wonder what if anything he understands about public services for the residents of this town. Sometimes, Mr. Blair, it is wise to inform oneself on a subject, and listen carefully rather than blurt out ridiculous (he calls them 'outside the box') suggestions to generate more revenue for a town that just spent $500,000 on electric golf carts. And $200,000 (exactly what the library director needs to restore library hours and add a new program for teens and tweens) to rehab a useless, unrentable golf clubhouse. Mr. Lamerson asked thoughtful, informed questions. As did Mrs. Suttles. And thankfully John Hanna was silent.

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Article comment by: Bucky O'Neill

In order to "fully fund" the City, how about having the citizens send in 100% of their income and have a 100% sales tax and a 200% bed tax...? These people must sit around their offices all day and halucinate... Maybe we should buy 'em a jet too...

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