FLETCHER — Fletcher youth baseball fees will remain the same for this season but will be negotiated under a new contract for next year, the Fletcher Town Council and members of Fletcher Youth Baseball decided Tuesday night after a sometimes contentious meeting.
Fletcher Town Council members calmly but emphatically defended the town's commitment to youth, saying that Fletcher provides by the best small-town recreation program in the NC mountains.
The meeting ended with a fragile peace between the baseball moms and dads and the Town Board, whose members said they were hurt and offended by a long email Fletcher Youth Baseball president Rob Mangone had sent to league parents.
The town has a recreation budget of $400,000 a year and devotes another $139,000 each year to debt service on its popular community park, Mayor Bill Moore told the seven Youth Baseball board members who attended the two-hour meeting. He recounted the beginnings of the town of Fletcher, where a grassroots effort to build ballfields for kids became the catalyst for the town's incorporation 23 years ago.
"In 1985 myself and Hugh Clark and Bob Davy and probably everybody in Fletcher that had a shovel got permission from the Board of Education and the county commissioners to build a playground at Fletcher Elementary, which is now known as Veritas," he told the baseball parents. Once the work was done, someone asked Moore, "Now that we've got a playground what are we going to do with it? So we formed Fletcher Recreation Park."
The organization formed leagues for T-ball, Pee Wee ball and Little League and continued to build play space for kids.
"In 1990 I went before the Town Council and begged and pleaded for $10,000," he said. "I guess where I'm going with this is we had $10,000 but today our recreation budget is over $400,000 ... We're spending well over a half million dollars on recreation but I tell you why we do it — the same reason you're here tonight. We do it because we care and we do it for the children."
The 2012 total is based on a contract between the town of Fletcher and Fletcher Youth Baseball that charges Fletcher residents $9 and non-residents $15. The individual fee went up $1 per player.
Fletcher Youth Baseball paid $5,634 for park use this year, which was up from $4,300 last year mainly because the league has more players. Mangone accused the town of making money off youth baseball but board members strongly denied that, saying the town spends more money for upkeep, equipment and improvements than it takes in from fees.
The baseball board members said they understood the town incurs the expense of maintaining and prepping the baseball diamonds for games. They said the fees were higher than in some towns that host Little League games, and they sought permission from the Town Board to operate concession stands. None of the details were worked out Tuesday night. The Town Board directed Recreation Director Greg Walker to meet with youth league board members to form a fee structure for the 2012-13 budget year.
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