AUBURN | Although it's nearly winter, Emerson Park was on the minds of the Cayuga County Public Works Committee Tuesday night.
Specifically: park fees. The committee was presented with a resolution that would raise the fees to use facilities at Emerson Park.
The idea for the fee increase was first presented to the committee in October by Parks and Trails Superintendent Gary Duckett.
Duckett said the fee increase would be a way for the county to increase revenue from the park by $46,530, or 39 percent. Per the resolution, all of the additional money made from the fee increase would go into a capital fund for park improvements.
If the resolution were to pass, the cost of a daily standard parking pass would increase by a dollar to $3 and the cost for a standard parking season pass would increase by $10 to $30. The cost for a daily parking pass for seniors and the handicapped would be upped by $1 to $2 and the cost for a season pass for the same group would go up $10 to $20.
All of the increases — which include jumps in boat launch fees and boat slip rentals —were detailed in a spreadsheet given to legislators, though Duckett noted that they could change items as they see fit.
"Believe me it creates nothing but heartache for us as well," Duckett said.
Legislator Mark Farrell, who is not on the Public Works Committee, said he would not support the resolution when it came to the full Legislature for a vote.
"The last time we did this I heard from seniors not only from my district but all over," Farrell said.
Legislator Keith Batman noted that he does believe all parks should be free to the public, but added that he views the fees as "for a service."
"If we accept that the park needs additional money, then we have a choice," Batman said. "We can get revenue from fees — the people that use it — or we can go to the tax base."
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Legislator Terrance Baxter followed up on that point by noting that a large percentage of people in county never use the parks.
Duckett did note that the Emerson Foundation does not support the increase. The foundation was opposed to any fees for park use when initially levied three years ago.
"It's always going to be controversial," Duckett said.
The resolution passed through the committee and will be discussed again at the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee Thursday.
In other news:
• A resolution to set a public hearing on a potential local motor vehicle tax continued its roll through Legislature committees. It passed through both the Judicial and Public Safety Committee and the Public Works Committee.
At Public Works, Legislator Hans Pecher said he would only support the new tax if all its revenues went back into funds to maintain county roads.
Legislator Joseph Bennett agreed.
"We're taxing people to drive on them, we should at least put the money back into the roadways," Bennett said.
County Administrator Suzanne Sinclair and County Attorney Fred Westphal said they would look into adding an amendment for discussion at Thursday's Ways and Means Committee meeting.