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Council fee waiving trend continues—for now

Apr 10, 2018 05:10PM

The West Jordan City Council voted to waive fees for two upcoming uses of city facilities. (City Journals)

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com

In two separate votes, the West Jordan City Council approved fee waivers for West Jordan Pony Baseball league and the Jordan Education Foundation’s year end event, both held in West Jordan. 

This continues a trend that saw the council approve (4-3 vote) a fee reduction in January for a historical dance group to use Pioneer Hall at a discounted rate. 

“This is a big concern to me,” said Councilwoman Kayleen Whitelock, who, less than three months into office, has seen three fee waiver requests come before the council. “It becomes at what point should the citizens at large pay for individual groups? That’s a real struggle for me.” 

While the margin was razor thin for Pioneer Hall, the two recent fee waivers were unanimous and 6-1 votes, respectively. 

West Jordan Pony Baseball, a non-profit baseball organization serving 300–400 youth, had its fees of $4,370 waived to use the fields at Veterans Memorial Park from April to June. That was the unanimous vote due its request for service in lieu of fees, where services are offered in place of paying fees. Pony baseball will help with Comcast Cares Day, field cleanup projects, park garbage cleanup and daily field cleanup. The valuation of those in-kind donated hours is $8,500, according to city documents. 

Councilman Chris McConnehey “wholeheartedly” supported this, saying financially it was a “win for the city.” He added it provides a sense of responsibility to the kids as well. 

“It teaches a feeling of ownership and pride in the community when they have responsibility to take care of the facilities they’re using,” he said. “I think people will be less likely to litter when they know they’re going to be taking care of it.” 

The JEF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting children and their education. Since 2015, it holds a Challenge Obstacle Run at Veterans Memorial Park and the rodeo grounds to raise funds for kids in Jordan School District. More than 1,000 participants are expected at the 2018 event in May. All proceeds go to the foundation’s program that allows teachers to apply for classroom projects. Over $186,000 in grants were awarded to district teachers in 2017, according to city documents. 

The council approved the organization’s request to waive the fees of $3,338 by a 6-1 vote, but it carried a touch of reluctance. Some council members had concerns regarding the event’s use of city staff, estimated at $1,000, to create the obstacle course. 

Whitelock said she knows what great work the foundation does but feels they come to West Jordan because fees are waived. “We host because we don’t charge,” she said. 

While McConnehey preferred the event be sponsored by one of the city’s citizen committees, Councilman Dirk Burton said the event promotes the city giving them “fantastic advertisement.”

“(The foundation) does a lot of good for our schools, and particularly they do a lot of work in West Jordan because we have our fair share of Title 1 schools,” Burton said, later adding, “I would love to have it be here every year.” He also pointed out the city doesn’t charge people to attend the annual Easter Egg hunt or Princess Ball. 

More requests for discounted fees can be expected in 2018. Parks and Recreation Director Brian Clegg told the city council they generally receive 10–12 waiver requests each year for different events. Though continuously waiving fees may not last, as city leaders are drafting a policy to mitigate the amount of fees they waive going forward.  

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