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Springettsbury Township could soon start charging sports organizations for use of its public athletic fields and courts at its parks, officials said. 

The township's board of supervisors discussed an early draft of a proposal Thursday after parks and recreation director Colin Lacey said a fee could help maintain fields and hold people accountable for litter and police calls. 

"Just given the usage rate and the accountability of some of these programs, it's not as efficient as it once was," he said. "Moving forward with a rental policy, making individuals put some money down for their usage to the township would be beneficial."

Springettsbury Township operates 13 parks with an annual maintenance budget of $188,500. The township also manages 18 fields and 19 courts for sports including baseball, football, basketball, tennis and inline hockey, said Ben Marchant, Springettsbury Township manager.

As far as officials know, it's the only municipality in York County that allows for free field usage. 

Though fixed rates are still being worked out between Lacey and his staff, fees would likely be generated based on what other municipalities charge. Factors such as residency status and the rental's duration could dictate the overall cost, Lacey said.

Under the proposed policy, users would only have to pay a fee if they wanted to rent a "particular facility at a particular time," Marchant. It would not apply to those who just show up to shoot some hoops or play tennis. 

"All parks and facilities will remain free and open for public use when they are not reserved for private use," he said via email. "The intent of the proposal is to include all parks and facilities that someone might want to reserve for exclusive use."

A few board members discussed how the potential for a rental fee could affect organizations such as York Little League, which relies on volunteers and donations. 

Lydell Nunn, the president of York Little League, said a majority of his organization's games take place on Springettsbury Township's fields. 

He said a potential fee would be harmful to the organization.

"We relied more on township parks for the purposes of our games and our practice schedules," Nunn said, adding that the organization puts in roughly 100 hours a week of baseball through a 10-week season.

Nunn said if Springettsbury Township decides to implement a field and courts rental fee, York Little League would, in turn, have to pass that cost on to parents.

"The impact is completely detrimental," he said.

Lacey said he hopes to have solidified plans for a fee by July to give sports organizations enough time to prepare for the changes. A fee could help teams better plan how and when they choose to rent field space, he said.

For years, organizations were required to attend field allocation meetings in February and July in order to reserve space. Lacey said he intends to continue holding those meetings even if the township's board ratifies the rental fee proposal. 

"You're looking at several organizations that are monopolizing on this free usage, and I think establishing a price tag with it, they'll have to redo what they're suggesting at these field allocation meetings," he said. 

Don Bishop, a member of the board of supervisors, said Thursday's meeting was the first time the potential policy was brought up and that further discussions need to be had before the township makes any final decisions. 

"I personally have no issue whatsoever with the concept of introducing some sort of fees, but the rudimentary proposal I heard at that meeting was nowhere close to a final plan," he said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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