Curran, legislature scrap over park fees

Curran, legislature scrap over park fees
Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) was sworn into her new position as county executive on Monday, as she promised to fight against the culture of corruption and improve the fiscal health of Nassau County. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

For the past few years, Little Leagues, senior athletic groups, and other charitable organizations had their fees waived to use county parks.

That will continue into the near future, as the Nassau County Legislature approved a bill on Monday that prohibits charging fees on charitable organizations to use county parks.

“It’s not a good idea and something we are going to prevent legislatively,” Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the legislature’s presiding officer, said about the park fees last week.

Curran had proposed removing the fee waivers at the end of last month, citing the county’s need for additional revenue to maintain the parks and balance the budget.

But Nicolello said the fees would hardly put a scratch on the county’s finances.

“The amount of money that she thinks she will realize is $200,000 or just north of that,” he said. “And that’s out of $3 billion budget. It is not going to solve any issues.”

Nassau County Legislator Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore) said the Office of Legislative Budget Review estimated the fees would bring in about $269,000 for the county. Nassau’s budget last year was $2.99 billion, according to Newsday.

The bill was proposed by the Republican majority, whose legislators had been railing against the fees since the removal of the waiver was announced.

Prior to voting on the bill, several county residents came forward to speak out against the reinstatement of fees.

“Our senior citizens are on fixed incomes and pay high property taxes,” said Frank Marlow, of the Long Island Senior Softball Association. “We have already done our fair share in supporting and paying for the fields.”

Part of the outrage stemmed from some of the fees for local organizations.

According to a report by the Long Island Herald, Seaford Little League was billed $16,000 by the county to use the fields in Washington Avenue Park, just days before the start of the season.

Rhoads said the leagues provided seniors with exercise and gave local youth important lessons (and kept them out of trouble).

“The work that you do and the service you provide is tremendously important,” he said.

The bill passed unanimously. Nicolello announced that the organizations that had already paid the fees would be reimbursed.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Curran said she was still considering what she would do about park fees in the future.

“I need to decide what the fiscal implications of that legislation and then decide what to do going forward,” she said.

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