Practice officially kicked off this week for the Athletics, a squad of youngsters who play baseball in the York City Little League.
The team practices several nights a week on a field behind Ferguson K-8.
But an afternoon shooting in the same neighborhood concerned Coach Juan Arevalo, who started searching for an alternative field to hold practice Thursday.
Arevalo said he'd heard Noonan Field — a facility a few blocks away owned by the city — was available. So, he called City Hall. A female employee answered.
"She told me I'd have to get a permit and I'd have to pay fees," Arevalo said. "I could not believe it."
That phone call ended in frustration, to say the least.
"I'm trying to take a kid to a safer place that's not being used," Arevalo said. "And you tell me I've got to pay for it? That's not right."
Program: A York City resident, Arevalo said he's a volunteer coach who already spends some of his own money on the program. Parents of the players paid $115 this year to register for the league, he said.
Arevalo said he'd understand the permit fee if he were hosting an event to make money.
"But these are city kids," he said. "I'm trying to get them off the street and out of trouble."
Thanks to some rain, Arevalo ended up canceling practice entirely Thursday.
Fees: The employee who answered the phone correctly communicated the city's policy when it comes to using city-owned facilities, like a baseball field, said Tom Landis, the city's recreation and parks director.
Rental fees help the city pay for the maintenance of those facilities, Landis said.
"Those fees that we charge for the use of our facility, they aren't going in somebody's pocket," he said.
In the interest of a consistent policy, only the mayor has the authority to waive a fee, Landis said.
Landis said he wasn't in the office when Arevalo called. Had he taken the call, Landis said, he would have tried to find a solution, considering the urgency of the matter.
"I probably would have said to the person, 'You know what? I know that this field's not being used. Why don't you hop over there tonight?'" he said.
League: Responsibility for a back-up plan also lies with the league, said Will Clark, the league's general manager.
The league has four fields it maintains and, therefore, does not pay to use, Clark said.
He said the city is not alone in its policy of charging fees for facility use. County officials, for example, expect payment to reserve a pavilion, Clark said.
"We need to do a better job of communicating the policies of the city fields," he said.
That way, coaches will be better prepared when safety concerns arise, Clark said.
"It's a great decision by Juan to address the concerns of his parents. I think he did the right thing," he said.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.