Oneida Council split on summer park program fees

In a special meeting of the Oneida Common Council on April 27, the Oneida Recreation Department's summer park program was again the topic of discussion.

Although fees for the summer program had already been approved by the council in a previous meeting, Mayor Leo Matzke asked the council to reconsider their vote in light of some emails received by area teachers.

Matzke had asked teachers from area schools including North Broad Street Elementary and Willard Prior how many children would be attending this summer, and how many the teachers thought would not be able to afford the fees. The response came back in five emails, with teachers stating that of the 180 that would attend, approximately 90 would not be able to pay the fee.

Councilor Dan Jones had previously voted no for the fees being imposed, and said his vote would remain the same.

"A lot of kids just can't afford it. It's basically daycare down there (Vet's Field), or daycare in the back of a cop car."

Councilor Max Smith reminded the mayor of the need to be consistent. He said that in his personal opinion, he had a problem with voting no for a senior van, and then yes for park fees.

"I was a poor North Side kid, and I know many cannot afford this," he said. Smith went on to say that the new park program, which began at Vet's in 2005, was entirely different than the programs in previous years, and suggested the city go back to the old program. With the old program, kids dropped in and out without much supervision.

When asked what the difference in cost would be between the two programs, Director of Parks and Recreation, Brandon Lovett said there was no difference.

"Whether it's free or not, we're still responsible for supervision," he said.

Lovett explained that the cost was for staffing, and parks would still need to be staffed. Smith suggested staffing three parks instead of five to cut some costs.

Mayor Matzke suggested that since the cost for the program was already included in the city's budget for this year, that the council come back at the next meeting with a resolution to rescind the previous vote.

The next meeting will be May 4 at 6 p.m.

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