SPANISH FORK -- Anyone under 18 who wants to participate in recreation programs in a south Utah County town other than their own will have to pay an extra fee under a compromise worked out by mayors in the southern part of the county.
With its vast recreation programs, Spanish Fork attracts many nonresidents who for decades have paid the same fees as residents. But city officials say they can no longer afford to run a recreation program that needs to be subsidized more than $330,000 a year with taxpayer dollars.The decision isn't setting well with some south county residents.
"I don't mind paying a little bit more, but I think $20 is a lot for just one thing," said Salem resident Leslie Henderson. Her daughter has been a regular participant in the Spanish Fork basketball program for several years. "Then you have to pay again when you sign up for baseball. All our kids go to school there after the sixth grade. We shop there and we have a business there," she said.
Other residents say they don't mind.
"I don't have a problem with it," said Dev Duke of Salem. "It's the fairest way to do it. I hated to see the split it could cause between the Salem kids and the Spanish Fork kids (if each were restricted to his own city) because they all go to junior high and high school together," he said. Duke coaches football at Spanish Fork High School.
Mayors from Springville to Santaquin agreed that a $20 per activity surcharge for nonresidents in any city would be a fair solution. It's up to the individual cities and the county to reimburse their residents, Salem Mayor Randy Brailsford said. Salem will reimburse residents $10 each for activities the city is not willing to provide, he said.
While the mayors agreed on the solution, most of their respective city councils still have to act, he said. Salem and Spanish Fork have already agreed to the compromise. The Spanish Fork City Council didn't vote on it specifically, but it was in the 1999-2000 budget that was approved Tuesday, Mayor Dale Barney said.
The tiff started with those two cities when Spanish Fork officials decided to charge county residents an additional fee when the County Commission said it wouldn't subsidize the city sports programs. County residents were charged $10, but now they must now pay the new $20 surcharge to participate in most sports programs in any south county city.
Spanish Fork officials then turned to Salem and requested a full annual subsidy from that city, which was also rejected. Officials responded by banning youths under age 18 from its programs, which rankled residents. But now with each participating city charging the same nonresident fee, the situation has been defused.
"This is a program that unites all of us. It's the same price for everybody," Brailsford said. But non-residents won't have to pay the $20 surcharge for all activities. Tennis, swimming and cheerleading will have a $10 non-resident surcharge, while youth camps will have no extra charge.
"Everybody's being treated equally and I think that's just great," he said. The surcharge goes into effect in August when the next recreation catalog is printed.
"It's a start," said Barney. "It's something we never had before." However, it won't cover the annual shortfall in the recreation budget, he said.
"I don't think you can ever cover the cost of recreation. It's like police, fire and ambulance. It's just part of the service."