December 30, 2016 08:26PM
By BROOKE CONSTANCE WHITE
Sun Staff Writer
STONINGTON — After continually tabling the subject for the past two years, the Board of Selectmen amended the $25 field usage fee per player to exclude community youth athletic organizations and in-town nonprofit organizations whose membership is comprised of at least 75 percent Stonington residents.
The change came at the suggestion of Selectman Mike Spellman, who took to Facebook last week with his concerns on the matter after hearing from many families who said they would be unable to shoulder the burden of another fee.
Out-of-town non-profits and for-profit groups will still be charged hourly rental fees for use of the town’s athletic fields. Community organizations will still have the opportunity to put on clinics or summer camps with all the funds made beyond expenses going back to the town’s field-maintenance fund to help offset the cost of athletic field maintenance and replacing the synthetic turf field.
During the meeting, several residents agreed with Spellman and voiced their concerns saying the fee was double taxation for residents.
Don Maranell, a former First Selectman and Borough Warden, said that since taxpayers approved the bonding for the athletic fields, he didn’t think it was right for the town to ask families to pay to use the fields.
“The taxpayers deserve to use these fields without having to pay,” he said. “I know there’s been talk of scholarship funds but there are a lot of proud people in this town who won’t ask for that scholarship and will simply go without. The youth of our community deserve these fields and it’ll keep the kids busy so they don’t get in trouble.”
George Burnside, a coach at the high school, agreed with Maranell, and said the fields have been maintaining themselves so far and that they would figure out the funding when maintenance is needed.
“It’s double taxation and really you’d be taxing these kids because you can’t financially cut the budget in places where there’s a lot of fat,” he said. “You just want to put another tax onto the residents and the future of this town. I just can’t imagine a kid not being able to be part of the town’s athletics.”
Longtime resident Ed Hart said he has three kids who grew up in Stonington and who played team sports and he can’t imagine if there was another fee for families to pay for their children to be involved in athletics.
“We have a lot of families in our town and to put another financial burden on these families is totally unfair,” he said.
After the board unanimously passed the amendment to the fees, Maranell stood up and thanked the board of doing the right thing.
“I’m most proud of you guys on your decision because I think our kids won tonight,” he said.