Will park rental fees go up?

HARLINGEN — Playtime could become more expensive at the city’s parks and pools.

A proposal being weighed by the Parks and Recreation Department advisory board would more than double some fees to rent city facilities, officials say.

The plan would include pavilions, athletic fields and pools and Splash Pad rentals, which now range from $60 to $200 depending on the facility.

“The amount that we charge isn’t anything close to what it costs us to maintain them,” Parks and Recreation Director Javier Mendez said yesterday.

“It’s almost like a service that we provide to the community.”

The rental fees charged at Harlingen parks and pools have not been raised for at least six years, Mendez said, and the city’s rental rates generally are far lower than other cities in the Valley.

For example, Harlingen charges $60 to $80 per day with a $20 deposit to rent one of the pavilions at one of six city parks.

Brownsville charges between $100 and $250, and in McAllen, the going rate for pavilions is $100 to $250 per day with deposits of $50 to $125.

As for pools, Harlingen charges $200 to rent an aquatic facility for four hours, while Brownsville charges up to $325 for six hours, and Edinburg charges from $270 to $380 for three hours, and $60 to $100 for each additional hour. Edinburg also charges non-residents higher fees.

The proposed fee changes — the measure was tabled by the parks advisory board this week without a vote — would if approved go to the Harlingen City Commission for final approval.

Another new wrinkle in the proposed new fee structure includes charging non-residents of the city higher fees for facility rentals than residents, something Harlingen does not do now.

“We hear it’s unfair that the resident who’s paying taxes pays the same amount as somebody who is not a resident,” Mendez said. “So we differentiated that cost.”

Mendez said the facility fees are just part of a bigger picture, and his department also wants the parks board and eventually the City Commission to consider park permits, rentals of the mobile stage and mobile restroom and charging for the rental of the city’s athletic fields.

At present, the city collects no revenue from special occasion rentals of athletic fields, which goes instead to leagues which have contracted with the city for the fields.

“Right now, any event that happens on a field, we direct them to the league that is responsible for that field, so they would collect whatever the fee is,” Mendez said.

“The leagues would operate those fields only during their league season, and then in the off-season we would run them,” he added. “In a special event where there’s a big tournament coming down, then we would have to coordinate with the league during their season and say, ‘we need to fill the field on this weekend and we’re going to have a tournament.’

“So then we would collect the fee from that group,” Mendez added.

Mendez said the board is weighing several other facets of the proposal, including charging for rentals of the city’s tennis courts, reducing the cost of the mobile restroom, looking into charging for athletic fields by the hour and establishing a kind of debit card which could be used to access aquatic facilities without the need to carry cash.

“I think that the board was very comfortable with our proposed fees,” Mendez said. “We aren’t trying to make any money, we’re just trying to recoup whatever our costs are for the rentals.”