Monday, Sep 22, 2014
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PR considers Nicks Park parking, boat launch fees

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Two parks could see big changes, Port Richey City Council members discussed Tuesday night.

Nicks Park could gain both parking and boat launch fees.

In the meantime, a committee could form to advocate a playground with universal access at Waterfront Park.

City officials postponed decisions until more research is conducted.

Nicks Park is one of the few parks in the area not to charge user fees, council members noted. City Manager Tom O’Neill studied options for parking fees for vehicles and trailers, along with a possible fee for boat ramp use.

Potential costs for enforcing the fees, however, made council members wince.

An honor drop box for fee payments would cost the city about $2,000 to set up, O’Neill reported.

An automated fee machine that allows use of debit and credit cards would cost about $17,500 to buy.

“The math just didn’t work out,” Councilman Steve O’Neill remarked about expense outweighing potential revenue. With some 33 spaces at the park, the city would be hard pressed to justify any fees.

Councilwoman Nancy Britton put it more bluntly. “These prices are insane,” she remarked.

It would take time to recoup the initial cost, Mayor Eloise Taylor said. Nonetheless, fees might provide revenue to help upgrade Nicks Park, she theorized.

City staff should conduct a count of the number of boats utilizing the park, especially over weekends, Councilman Bill Colombo advised.

The park evolved the past three decades into a boat launch ramp, Colombo recalled. “It is Nicks Park,” not Nicks boat ramp, he said.

The city would have to charge everyone for the fee, Councilman Terrence Rowe commented. Some would like to charge only those visitors from out of town. Rowe foresees enforcement problems with honor boxes. Somebody on city staff would have to write tickets if park patrons don’t pay.

Perhaps the city could explore other devices, Councilman O’Neill continued. Some restaurants now have payment options at tables using computer tablets to swipe credit or debit cars, he noted. He wondered if that technology could be adapted for the park fees.

Britton would like to consult with Pasco County park leaders to help maintain Nicks Park.

“I certainly could ask,” City Manager O’Neill replied. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up.”

The city manager said he would borrow traffic counters to gauge the number of vehicles at the park over a week. He probably can do the additional research for free.

Reconvening as the Community Redevelopment Agency, city council members discussed the “limitless” playground concept, with universal access, at Waterfront Park.

Cost estimates ranged from $100,000 to $750,000.

The $100,000 figure was based on information from Eric Feingold with Playmore Recreational Products and Services, City Manager O’Neill said. Installation would add onto costs, O’Neill said. Smaller versions possibly could cost less.

Children of all abilities could play together, Feingold wrote in a memo. Such playgrounds provide many physical and psychological benefits for the youngsters, research shows.

Britton pegged costs much higher if the city pursues ADA-compliant bathrooms with handicapped access and specialized parking areas.

The city should get the “temperature of the community” now about a playground project, the mayor remarked, before all the funding details are figured out.

Britton said she already has two volunteers interested in serving on a committee to spearhead a playground project. She will canvass other nonprofit groups and businesses that might support the initiative.

Perhaps one nonprofit agency might even sign on as the lead sponsor, Britton speculated. Then contributors might qualify for tax deductions. Another question might be if the city could match any private donations.

The Junior Service League helped lead the Super Playground effort in New Port Richey, which has endured in popularity for about a quarter of a century, Tom O’Neill noted. Yet organizers managed to build the structure virtually at no cost.

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