GLOCESTER – The Foster/Glocester Regional School Committee will continue to charge residents to use the facilities at Ponaganset High School for adult recreation basketball and volleyball.
At the recent Town Council meeting, Recreation Director Robert Shields was asked to deliver the committee’s response to the council’s request to remove the charge for residents.
“They talked,” said Shields. “They asked further questions of me, and then the end result was they are not changing their opinion for this year of basketball and volleyball.”
“So they are charging taxpayers $75 per night for adult basketball and volleyball, even though they are already paying for it?” asked Councilor Walter Steere.
“Yes,” said Shields. “Apparently so.”
Shields explained that the Recreation Department will take care of the cost for now by utilizing their funds, even though the town had not budgeted for the unexpected charge.
Previously, Walter M.O. Steere III had questioned the charge, explaining that it didn’t make sense for the committee to be charging residents for the use of a facility they pay for. He pointed out that the town doesn’t charge the school for use of local fields, particularly baseball fields, which the school often uses. Foster/Glocester Regional Schools have been used for town recreational purposes for years, including adult coed basketball and coed volleyball, as well as other youth activities. The schools decided last spring to start charging residents for using the facilities, which, ironically, their tax dollars paid for.
Town Council President William Worthy pointed out at that meeting that when charges like that are implimented, they create a lot of ill will. Councilor Jonathan Burlingame suggested Shields go back to the committee to try to resolve the situation. He had said that it was important for the town and the region to work together to avoid any animosity. To that end, Steere drafted a letter to the committee and the council approved sending it on their behalf.
The letter stated in part that, “We appreciate that some fees may have already been waived for these programs; however, we are concerned that our residents are participating in a town funded recreational activity and are paying any fee for the use of a facility that is currently funded through their tax dollars.”
“We would appreciate an explanation for the reasoning behind the decision and ask if the charging of fees for the town recreation program can and will be reconsidered,” it stated.
Shields explained that the school system was originally charging the town $200 for the use of the coed basketball and volleyball programs, but agreed to waive part of that fee when he approached them with his concerns. However, they continue to charge $75 an hour for each time the indoor courts are used to pay for a custodian. Previously, even before Shields took over as recreation director, residents were never charged for using the facilities. Steere said recreation teams made up of residents have been playing, but not paying, for more than 50 years at the regional schools.
“We’re going to take care of that by pulling it out of the recreation budget this year,” Shields told the council at the recent meeting. “So, that way we can continue to allow those individuals to play for free the same as has been the policy before I even started here. Maybe next year we will start pursuing some other avenues.”
A possible solution, he said, would be to move the location for the recreational teams to West Glocester Elementary School gymnasium.
“That is unfortunate,” said Steere.
“It is,” said Shields. “But it seems as though they are pretty adamant about going in this direction. You know, I think sometimes people make choices that they believe are best at the time, and sometimes they lose sight of the bigger picture.”