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Youth leagues, city discuss agreements

Recreation Superintendent Laurie Dudek, Recreation Supervisor Damian Cheatum, Lions Hondo Little League President Troy Oswald and other local sports league representatives attended a meeting between the leagues and the city of Roswell on April 3. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Youth sports league representatives and city of Roswell staff met at the General Services Committee meeting to revisit current agreements, field usages and fees.

City Councilor Savino Sanchez, committee chairman, called the meeting to order, saying a discussion was needed to talk about the leagues’ responsibilities, and the city’s. The committee had a quorum with city councilors Juan Oropesa, Jacob Roebuck and Angela Moore also present at the April 3 meeting.

Sanchez said the reason for the meeting was to have an open dialogue between the city and leagues, to clearly define responsibilities for each entity and an understanding of what they are “trying to accomplish for the city.”

No formal action occurred. The only action item involved the committee unanimously approving a contract to purchase a new city bus.

Troy Oswald, Lions Hondo Little League president; Craig Ballard, Roswell Youth Soccer Association; Matthew Shappard, New Mexico Youth Soccer Association; Brian Casaus, Roswell Girls Softball Association; James Edwards, president of Roswell Youth Football League; Kyle Stokes, Lions Hondo Little League; Danica Parsons and Darnell Hunter, Lobo Flag Football League; Carlos Molines, Men’s Softball League; and Steve Dodson, Noon Optimists Little League were present to represent the various organizations.

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Jim Burress, Parks and Recreation director, shared his appreciation for the dialogue and informed the committee that he and his department are examining relationships and contracts between various sports organizations and the city.

Sanchez and Burress also presented Parks and Recreation policies and procedures. Burress said the policies were up for review and Sanchez encouraged league members to offer their input.

League representatives and City Manager Joe Neeb commented that costs and maintenance will vary by each sport’s needs and each league’s circumstances. Neeb and the councilors also discussed desired accountability from the leagues, in terms of their finances.

Some league representatives said they were spending as much as $15,000 — and in some cases $45,000 — for improvements to city fields and facilities. They asked if the city would consider waiving player fees if they could prove their purchases were greater than the player fees.

Sanchez asked which leagues have paid, or have not paid, the $5 per player fee. Recreation Supervisor Damian Cheatum said only the Noon Optimists Little League was not current in its payments.

Oswald asked about the “purpose of fee, what the fee is taking care of and what all that comes along with,” as well as what it provides to the youth playing sports. Burress and Edwards replied that the fee goes toward water and electricity.

For any leagues not paying, Moore used an example of a tenant fixing their air conditioner and refusing to pay rent. She said having such sports programs are “one of the best things the city has to offer” for local youth.

“You do have to put time in and I understand — like they said the fields belong to the city, but if you love what you’re doing and we’re doing it for the right reason,” Edwards said. “We’re doing it for the betterment of our community and the kids we serve. Whether you pay the fee or you don’t pay the fee, we’re supposed to be here for the right reasons …”

“The amount of money that we’re putting into the fields is substantial and we’ve always done an in-kind contract …” Shappard said. “We’ll put in more in the fields than the city puts in. We don’t ask the city to mow. We take care of all of our sprinkler problems, unless they get huge. Anything that we can take care of, we try to take care of and own the field.

“We want to have ownership. Even though it’s the city’s, we act like it’s ours. We treat it like it’s ours and it’s been a pretty good way to do business for us.”

Roebuck said the leagues’ efforts are vital to the community and the city should honor current agreements until others are approved or revised. He calculated that nine leagues contributed $25,000 in fees, which he called a “drop in the bucket” when it comes to the city’s budget.

“Assuredly, if we had a contract, verbal or otherwise, I mean we’re legally probably at some level obligated to honor that,” Roebuck said. “But at the same time, we need to work as quickly as possible to get those things to working at a level playing field …”

Some league representatives asked if the city would consider waiving the fees if the leagues could provide receipts for large purchases, such as $100,000 for installing bleachers; and about paying fees through improvements. Moore also suggested that improvements be reported and approved through communication with Burress before occurring; in agreement with Moore, Oropesa said leagues should submit their needed improvements to the city.

Cheatum also reminded the leagues that there should be only one point of contact from the leagues to ask the city for improvements.

Oswald said the leagues did not want the city “providing for one entity and not providing for another.”

Another issue raised was lack of fields for all the various teams. Both Roebuck and Oropesa said in regard to building new fields, it takes time and the council must make decisions on when to fund them and why. Burress agreed with Oropesa’s fairness statement and added that he wants all agreements to be standard and to not put his staff in difficult positions. He added that 14 new backstops were installed in town after leagues provided input.

Oropesa said he had a big problem with leagues being able to determine whether or not a field is a practice field, after referencing pushback in the past related to girls’ softball fields.

“I think we have to be fair with every single league,” Oropesa said.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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