City explains Lemon Park's tax and fee combination

Most families run on a budget. Like some families, some budgets are larger than others. Just like those local families, municipalities have to live within their budgets.

To stay withing its budget, the city of Barnwell has to both charge a hospitality tax and user fees to fund its recreational resources. These fees have been a source of questions and complaints by some.

For the city of Barnwell, one of the line items for its budget includes the Parks and Recreation Department and the Lemon Park sports complex.

Just like purchasing a home, to build the facility, the city entered into a 12-year lease/purchase agreement with BB&T Bank, said Barnwell City Administrator John Zawacki.

Essentially, the bank paid for the completion of the park and the city leases it from the bank for $182,000 per year until the park is paid for. The city will then regain ownership, he said.

Funds to pay the lease payments come from the hospitality tax everyone pays at restaurants and motels within the city. No personal property tax is used to pay for the park, Zawacki said.

Barnwell receives approximately $240,000 each year in hospitality taxes, he said.

The remaining funds of the hospitality tax are used to fund other recreational programs, purchase banners for downtown, sponsor events like the upcoming Third Thursday event and to promote tourism, Zawacki said.

Two grants were received for the park construction as well.

One grant totaling $194,250 from the Baseball Tomorrow Foundation paid for one field as well as its lights, he said.

A second grant, $50,000, paid for the playground equipment, he said.

The walking track at the playground was donated by Web Concrete, he said.

As for as maintenance expenses, the city pays a maintenance contract for the turf at the park totaling $27,000 per year.

For regular expenses, the city's light bill at the park during peak baseball and softball season runs $2,400 per month, Zawacki said.

On the revenue side, the concession stand profits are used to pay for the maintenance at the park, he said.

The Barnwell Baseball Association has a contract with the city for use of the fields during its season. The city provides these fields free of charge.

Zawacki said all regular season games and all-star practices are included in that contract.

What that contract does not include are practices.

Local teams practice at the airport and privately or church owned fields, said Doug Ridgeway, the Barnwell Baseball Association president.

The Association pays $100 for use of a grassy area outside the airport fence for practice areas, Ridgeway said.

This year the BBA has approximately 40 teams of children involved in the spring season, he said.

Ridgeway said if a coach and parents want to practice at Lemon Park, they are responsible for paying the fees.

"We've been lucky to have churches to allow us to use their facilities," Ridgeway said.

If they want to scrimmage or practice on the regular fields at Lemon Park, the team has to pay the rental fee of $25 per hour and $20 for lights if needed, Zawacki said.

"We just try to cover costs," Zawacki said.

How does this compare to other complexes?

Aiken charges $35 per hour field rental and $15 for the first hour of lights.

The North Augusta parks and recreation charges $50 for two hours for a non-lined field and $75 for a lined field.

Lexington County charges $200 for 10 one -hour long practices.

Sumter County recreation charges $25 per hour for a non-lined field with a $25 per hour charge for the lights and $50 per hour for a lined and lighted field.
However, local teams do have other options.

The Lemon Park sports complex includes a multi-purpose field which is free to use, Zawacki said.

The city has temporary bases and backstops that can be used on this field, he said.

Fuller Park field is also available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.

Area school teams no longer use Fuller Park on a regular basis, he said.

Here are the costs the city incurs during a two-hour practice without lights.

Staff - to unlock and lock fields - $19.51.

Full time staff to prepare and maintain the field and clean the bathrooms - $27.32.

Plus supplies - chalk and bathroom supplies - $2.66.

For a total cost of $49.49.

Divided in half for a one-hour practice, without lights, the city incurs expenses nearing the $25 rental fee charged.

"We are not making money," Zawacki said.