The Zionsville Town Council passed a motion Jan. 19 to approve the town’s dog park fees, allowing it to open as scheduled Feb. 1, while tabling the remainder of the proposed fees in the town’s fee schedule for consideration during the next council meeting.
The motion passed 5-1, with council Vice President Jason Plunkett voting against. Plunkett said he doesn’t support increasing fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would just go back to my initial stance that, in a pandemic year, my appetite for fee increases and new fees is just not there,” Plunkett said.
But other councilors, including President Josh Garrett, said they understand why some town departments proposed fee increases.
The town council annually votes to approve the fee schedule, a list of all town fees for the year. The fees are not taxes and are charged to individuals for recreational use of town amenities.
In addition to fee increases, the town has proposed new fees to be added to the schedule, including for reserving shelters, memorial donations, reserving sports fields, special event trail use, dog park memberships, duplications of body camera videos and accident photos from the Zionsville Police Dept. and for meeting rooms, among fees.
Zionsville Parks & Recreations Dept. Supt. Jarod Logsdon said the fees are often funneled directly to town departments to fund programs offered to the community. Fees for a Heritage Trail Dog Park membership or Zionsville Golf Course season pass, for example, would be used to increase the number of parks and recreations programs throughout the year, he said.
During the council’s Jan. 4 meeting, councilors asked Logsdon to prepare a presentation for the Jan. 19 meeting to explain why the department suggested increases for some of its fees.
To recover costs for programs, Logsdon said the department uses funds allotted from the town’s general fund to pay for facilities and primary staff, who then create programs based on public interest. He said fees are reinvested into programming operations.
Logsdon said many of the proposed fee increases correspond with increased services to the community, including adding additional days or times for certain programs, and adding space for birthday party rentals at the town’s nature center.
Logsdon said the proposed increases pertain to users. Thus, the department plans to recoup costs by allowing residents continued use of free programs and amenities that benefit the community, such as parks, trails and special events, while incrementally charging participating individuals for specialized services, such as birthday parties and private events, by using a sustainable programming model to figure costs.
The town councilors said they would continue the fee schedule discussion during the Feb. 1 council meeting.