Town council members Tuesday night were in a general consensus, that they opposed implementing fees for the new dog park slated to be open later this month.
The Parks, Recreation & Advisory committee proposed the idea to the council at its work session.
The idea was to have a registration process that would help document owner information and track immunizations for the safety of dog park users. There would be two fees. One would be a yearly registration procedure where the dog’s vaccination certificates could be verified. The other would be a yearly usage fee that would help cover maintanance costs.
Committee member David Jeter said there was a lot of discussion among the committee members but one of the things they came to a consensus on was the reason for the fees.
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“We believe there must be some method to control the use of the parks, in particular to prevent the spread of contagious diseases such as Parvo, Distemper, rabies and more recently dog flu,” Jeter said.
But after discussion, it was clear that the majority of the council members didn’t agree that there should be one.
Council member Kathy Behringer said she was in agreement that it would be beneficial to implement a registration fee for the safety of the people and the pets, but she did not agree with a yearly usage fee.
“We’re building this dog park to serve the citizens and I’d like to see how that is going to work before we start charging them to use something that we built to meet a need,” Behringer said. “If we wind up having to do that then we do but I would like to give it a shot first.
“I hope that people would be responsible and use it wisely so we wouldn’t have to charge a fee to get people to comply.”
She said she wondered if implementing the fee would reduce the number of people using the park.
The town staff gathered information from area municipalities including Apex, Raleigh Cary, Clayton, Wake Forest, Knightdale and Fuquay-Varina. Of those municipalities, Apex and Cary have dog park fees and Clayton is in the process of creating a fee-based facility, Jeter said.
Parks, Recreation & Advisory Committee member Lisa Sullivan was one of the committee members in favor of the maintenance fee.
“When a person who owns a dog spends even just $10 to ensure that they’re bringing their dog to a place where they know a facility is being taking care of it’s an investment to that person especially considering if they own the dog and consider that dog a part of their family they want to make sure that dog is taken care of as is the facilty,” Sullivan said. “So the majority of people would pay for that even if it is a small fee.”
Mayor pro-tem Ken Marshburn was the only member who expressed interest in implementing the fees. He said after hearing the discussion between committee members at a separate meeting, he felt it would be a good idea.
‘Similiar to a tax’
The rest disagreed. Probably the most outspoken was council member Gra Singleton.
“I agree with Ms. Behringer. I’m not big on a fee for the park,” Singleton said. “I’m just not big on fees. That’s not what we said when we asked them to pass the bond referendum.”
He said he didn’t understand the reasoning behind fees for making sure the dogs had their vaccinations.
“Then what’s next we do it on playgrounds for kids? And kids have to swipe to use the playground?” he said.
“We’re more concerned about the dog having their vaccinations than having the kids having their vaccinations,” Singleton explained in an interview. “I’m not trying to make fun, I’m just stating a fact.”
Mayor Ronnie Williams also disagreed with the idea of implementing a fee, saying that it would be similar to a tax.
Proposed by council member Buck Kennedy, the town council came to an agreement that there will not be a fee in the the first year of the dog park’s opening. After the first year, the staff and council would re-evaluate whether a fee was needed.