Thursday | June 29, 2017
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Park fees to take a hike

HILO — Those graduation and birthday picnics at a park pavilion will soon cost you more — more than twice as much, in fact.

The county Department of Parks and Recreation has approved fee increases proposed by the administration in a series of rule changes slated to take effect Aug. 1. The increases, along with hikes in property taxes, vehicle registration and weight fees and bus fares, all go toward balancing the county’s $394.3 million 2013-14 budget.

The rule changes were adopted by the department and forwarded to Mayor Billy Kenoi after a public comment period that generated little public interest. Only six people offered testimony at a public hearing in Hilo and none participated in one in Kona last month.

Kenoi is expected to approve the new rules. The rules will then be registered with the County Clerk.

“We’re shooting for Aug. 1,” Darren Takiue, Parks and Recreation business manager, said Thursday.

The increases in fees for picnic pavilions, ballparks, community centers, gymnasiums and rodeo arenas are needed to keep up with increasing costs, Parks and Recreation spokesman Jason Armstrong said last month. He noted that fees haven’t been increased in more than 10 years.

The use of county swimming pools, parks and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo will continue to be free. No new fees are being added, only current fees are being increased.

Alice Moon, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Association in Hilo, was one of the six who commented during the Hilo public hearing. She said Thursday she has since discussed the fees with Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma, but she still has some concerns.

“I understand their need to increase rates. I totally do,” Moon said Thursday. “Their fees are very low, it’s true. I just want to be sure they’re clear about it.”

In particular, Moon is concerned about definitions of benefit, nonbenefit and promoter categories. She fears nonprofits and community groups may end up paying more than their share if definitions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Moon thinks the department should adopt a computerized reservation system to become more efficient and possibly make more money than currently off professional promoters and others who use county facilities to make money, while being sensitive to the needs of organizers of community events.

The increases are expected to add, conservatively, $110,500 to the department’s roughly $7 million maintenance budget. The fees are structured so that money-making and commercial functions and professional promoters shoulder a larger part of the burden.

The fees at most county picnic pavilions for the public or groups not seeking to make money, so-called “nonbenefit” functions, would increase from $10 to $25 under the proposal. Use of kitchens at the facilities would add $25 per day.

Those conducting an activity for a benefit, such as a fundraiser, would continue to be charged $50 a day, plus $25 for the kitchen, and professional promoters would be charged $300, up from $200.

Exceptions include several of the larger pavilions on both sides of the island.

Renting the Mooheau Park bandstand and concession area would cost $100 for nonbenefit functions, compared to $35 per day currently. Money-makers and professional promoters would pay $200 and $400, respectively.

The county retained the existing state rates for Old Kona Airport Park when it took over in 2008. The proposed new rates for the special events pavilion would climb to $250 a day from $125 for nonbenefit functions. Commercial functions would cost $400 a day, and professional promoters would pay $1,000.

A few changes were made to the proposed rules. Specifically, tennis at the indoor courts at Kanakaole Stadium in Hilo will cost $6 per hour until 4 p.m. and $8 per hour after 4 p.m., rather than the previously announced $10 per hour, Takiue said. Outdoor courts will cost $25 per day for tournaments.

Ballfields would remain free for nonbenefit athletics activities and $100 for nonbenefit nonathletics activities. Nonathletics events, however, will incur a $12 per hour charge for lighting. Commercial ventures would pay $200 per day for nonathletics events or $50 per day, $15 per team per season for athletics events. Professional promoters would pay $400 per day, up from $200.

Gymnasiums would be free for nonbenefit athletics events, while nonbenefit nonathletics events would continue to cost $100 a day and professional promoters would be charged $1,000 a day, up from $500. Commercial ventures would pay $200 per day for nonathletics events or $50 per day, $15 per team per season for athletics events.

Commercial use of some of the county’s larger facilities, such as the Old Kona Airport Park runway or the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, would go from $500 to $1,000 per day for professional promoters. Nonbenefit functions would continue to be charged $100 per day.