By BRIAN SMITH
After months of negotiating, Weatherford council members unanimously approved a user agreement between the city and the Weatherford Little League during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The agreement, which will run for 2-1/2 years with an option of extending it at the Parks and Recreation Board’s discretion, has been a bone of contention for the last few months as the city and league worked to hammer out an agreement.
Members of the Parks and Rec board and council believed the league wasn’t doing enough to maintain its end of the original one-year agreement, which expired in December 2012.
With a lot of discussion prior to the vote, the Parks and Rec board voted 4-3 in January to approve the agreement and move the issue to the council for final consideration. Much of the contention came from the league and its previous financial problems, which caused delays and the agreement to expire.
Under the new agreement, user fees will increase $5 for both residents and nonresidents. The league pays all the water and wastewater used by the concession stand.
The league will take care of concession costs and pay for all large maintenance projects, which would then be performed by the city. Under the new agreement, the league will submit all financial reports by April and have them prepared in accordance with general accounting principles, which reportedly was a problem in the past. The contract will also run from July 1-June 30 each year, which is more in line with the city’s budgeting process. Preparations for the upcoming city fiscal year begin in the summer each year.
The league has been working to pay back about $100,000 for the lights installed on seven fields at Soldier Spring Park. Council member Waymon Hamilton questioned if enrollment numbers continued to stay down and the league can’t meet its payment what would the city do.
City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said there were never any guarantees because of the uncertainty of the enrollment fees.
Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said the league made a payment for the lights, which went into a prior fiscal year because of the different budget years, but was rolled over. That, along with both payments for the recent fall and spring seasons, will provide enough for two years of the debt service.
Mayor Dennis Hooks said for many years, the city received nothing from the league. User fees will now go toward payment of the lights and, once those are paid off, toward the maintenance of the fields and the park, Hooks said.
“The little league now has a fund balance to help take care of the lighting,” Hooks said.
Hamilton also wanted to make sure field use was equitable between the city and all youth sports leagues.
“I would like to share the pie,” Hamilton said.
Parks and Recreation Director Danielle Felts said there had been close discussions with the Weatherford Soccer Association and Weatherford Youth Association, which operates youth football in the city. The WYA has been practicing at Cartwright Park.
“We’re trying to reach out to all our youth programs,” Felts said. “We’ve been working with the Weatherford Little League with budgeting and the adjustments we’ve made will help both the city and the league.”