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No School Field Fee. Public Weighs In

The Madison Schools' Partnership Committee took a cue from the public Monday night and voted down a proposal to charge a fee or permit for using public school fields for organized events such as youth soccer games.

Volunteer coaches, club sport organizers and parents all told the members of the Partnership Committee how worried they are about the negative effects the proposed permit and fee would have not only on their programs but also the participants.

"These are kids that don't pay very much, kids that wear their uniforms year after year to save the cost of buying a new uniform so that a cost of ten dollars per game is not insignificant to them," says Peter Oppeneer, President of the North Madison Soccer Club.

Alan Crossley is concerned as a parent, "I'm just worried about the message it sends that in order to use your neighborhood school field to practice soccer or practice baseball you have to get a permit and perhaps pay a fee."

It is a proposal MSCR Executive Director Lucy Chaffin says would not affect practices, only games. The reason? She says many of these clubs have worn out the schools' playing fields.

"When you don't even know who is on your facility to communicate with them and say, 'Hey, can we have you move to another field?' That's what we want to be able to do."

But some say they have a vested interest in the playing fields in question.

" With the work we've done to develop the fields, our experience is that the school district has not done any maintenance on the fields we used," says Philip James, President of the Regent Soccer Club, "We've stepped forward and spend over eight thousand dollars in the last year alone."

James says he believes instead of gaining money, the school district would lose out and have no money for field maintenance.

"We calculate this would cost us four thousand dollars a year. That's the largest user. There is no way the district is going to recoup the money they plan to spend administering the program."

But Chaffin says she doesn't care about the fee, just the permit. "II was just finding a way to help maintenance folks get a handle on their issues by having the users be known and accountable for some of the damage that's done out there."

After hearing from numerous concerned citizens, the committee motioned to direct the school administration to identify all school playing fields with problems due to overuse and return to the committee with a recommendation to address the problem without imposing new fees.

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