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Watertown Parks Department looking at adding fees, programs

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You could end up paying to sign up your kids for swimming lessons this summer or for T-ball and youth baseball programs through the city Parks and Recreation Department.

The department staff has proposed a new set of fees for existing programs. Staff members also unveiled a series of new activities the department would offer.

On Monday night, the Watertown City Council discussed the new fees for existing programs and additional activities. No decisions were made. The council instructed staff to continue to work on the changes.

Under the proposal, it would cost as much as $30 for swimming lessons and $20 each for T-ball and youth baseball. Staff also proposed increasing the $5 fee for golf and tennis lessons for Watertown residents and $15 for non-city residents to $25 for everyone.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. contended that some families cannot afford fees that high.

“If you have three children, that’s a lot of money,” Mr. Butler said.

Council members informally agreed it was not a bad idea to establish a nominal fee for swimming lessons, but $30 seemed to be too much. The swimming lessons fee would help to pay for lifeguards and ensure children remain enrolled until the end of the three-week program.

Council members also were adamant that non-city residents should pay more than Watertown residents for the programs. Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith argued that city residents should not be hit by a double whammy of paying the fees and then “subsidizing” the activities through city taxes, while those living outside of the city would be charged just the fees.

All of the fees would be used to help defray the cost of running the programs. For instance, it costs the Parks Department about $6,000 to offer youth golf lessons at the Watertown Golf Club, and the city does not recoup most of that money through charging fees.

When asked about how the amounts were proposed, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner told the council that City Manager Sharon A. Addison instructed staff to come up with fees that would pay 50 percent of the city’s cost to offer the programs.

While much of Monday’s discussion had to do with the fees, Mrs. Gardner also unveiled a series of new programs and activities that she would like to offer this year.

They include adult kickball and volleyball leagues, a boot camp exercise program for adults, horseback riding, family yoga, children’s Zumba, scuba diving lessons, a youth running club and a fishing clinic.

When asked why the fishing clinic was so expensive, Mrs. Gardner said the proposed $25 fee would include providing fishing poles for children to keep once the clinic was over. The other proposed fees are $40 for the scuba and horseback lessons, $25 for the Zumba and running programs, $50 for the boot camp and $30 for yoga.

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