PLAY­ERS IRATE OVER RATE HIKE

Non-Wil­ton res­i­dents asked to pay more

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Post ppost@dig­i­tal­first­media.com @paul­v­post on Twit­ter

WIL­TON, N.Y. » A $2 rate in­crease for a pop­u­lar Gavin Park ac­tiv­ity might cost Wil­ton more in the long run by driv­ing peo­ple away, fee hike op­po­nents say.

Many area se­niors take part in daily games of pick­le­ball, sim­i­lar to ten­nis, but played on a much smaller court with pad­dles and plas­tic whif­fle balls.

Games are held out­doors in sum­mer at no charge to par­tic­i­pants. But the pro­gram is headed in­doors be­gin­ning Mon­day and the Town Board, at new Recre­ation Di­rec­tor Mark Marino’s sug­ges­tion, re­cently in­creased fees from $3 to $5 per day for non-Wil­ton res­i­dents, ef­fec­tive Jan. 1.

Town res­i­dents will still pay the lower amount.

“What they don’t un­der­stand is the ca­ma­raderie,” said Alan Ross of Wil­ton, an avid player. “Peo­ple from Clifton Park to Glens Falls come here. There’s a list of more than 100 peo­ple. About 15 to 20 come ev­ery day. We don’t know what per­cent­age are non­res­i­dents. If these peo­ple stop com­ing, it hurts the whole pro­gram.

“They don’t just come here to play,” he said. “After­ward, they have lunch or go shop­ping in Wil­ton. We’ve al­ready had some non-res­i­dents say they aren’t go­ing to come any more.”

The town’s recre­ation pro­gram costs $1.3 mil-

lion, but rev­enue from fees to­tals $533,000, or roughly one-third the ex­pense, town Comptroller Jeff Reale said.

The in­crease for pick­le­ball is one of sev­eral recre­ation rate hikes the Town Board ap­proved re­cently.

The Ju­nior NBA pro­gram at Gavin Park is go­ing from $125 to $135 for res­i­dents, $10 more, but an ex­tra $20 for non-res­i­dents from $165 to $185.

The cost of a sum­mer camp pro­gram, which in­cludes field trips, is go­ing up $50 from $775 to $825 for res­i­dents, and from $1,150 to $1,200 for non­res­i­dents.

Gym rentals at Gavin Park are in­creas­ing $5 from $55 to $60 for res­i­dents, and from $65 to $70 for non-res­i­dents.

Ath­letic field rentals will be $2.50 more, from $37.50 to $40 for two hours.

Marino could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

Coun­cil­man Steve Stre­icher, the town board’s recre­ation de­part­ment li­ai­son, said, “We’re not look­ing to make money. We’re not look­ing to lose money, ei­ther. We want to cater to our res­i­dents first.”

Pick­le­ball play­ers bring their own pad­dles. Balls and most nets are sup­plied by the town. In past years, the town has also treated play­ers to help-your­self cof­fee and snacks.

But play­ers say they’ve spent more than $600 of their own money for one of the in­door nets, and a large plas­tic wind­screen on one of the out­door ten­nis courts fences.

Jack Jac­knowitz, 88, of Saratoga Springs, said pick­le­ball is a reg­u­lar part of his ex­er­cise rou­tine.

“I was a hand­ball player all my life,” he said. “At 82, I said, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it any more.’ So I came out here. I can do this. It’s not that hard.”

Craig Mor­ris, of Saratoga Springs, said he co­founded the Gavin Park pick­le­ball pro­gram about 10 years ago. Peo­ple like play­ing there be­cause all abil­ity lev­els are wel­come, and the com­pe­ti­tion is friendly, he said.

Mor­ris said he’ll stop com­ing if the town doesn’t elim­i­nate the rate hike.

“It’s not the money,” he said. “It’s about prin­ci­ple.”

Ross said he un­der­stands the ex­pense in­volved with run­ning the town’s recre­ation pro­gram. How­ever, Wil­ton also has $6 mil­lion worth of sur­plus funds. So he doesn’t un­der­stand the need to raise rates.

“We want it to be jus­ti­fied and we want it to be fair,” he said.

PHO­TOS BY PAUL POST — PPOST@DIG­I­TAL­FIRST­MEDIA.COM

Pick­le­ball is played on a court, sim­i­lar to ten­nis. But the play­ing area is much smaller. Play­ers hit a plas­tic whif­fle ball with pad­dles.

Saratoga Springs res­i­dents Craig Mor­ris, left, and Jack Jac­knowitz, right, are up­set that the town of Wil­ton has im­posed a fee hike for non-town res­i­dents who play pick­le­ball in­doors at Gavin Park.

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