Bay Oaks Committee Lowers Higher Fees

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After receiving backlash from beach residents over proposed higher fees at the community pool and recreational facility, the Bay Oaks Committee held a special meeting last week to discuss easing into the higher fees.

Committee member Karen Woodson, who requested the meeting, said she heard loud and clear from parents and how they depend on the Bay Oaks facility. “There was a lot of concern about how we got to those numbers.” Woodson said it was sticker shock.

Town Manager Roger Herndstadt had told the committee there was a possibility programs and services would need to be cut at Bay Oaks if the fees were not raised. The fees have not been raised in over a decade. He also said the town was dealing with inflationary costs just like everyone else and he’s trying to keep the operation of the facility at 75%/25%, meaning 75% covered by taxpayers and 25% covered by user fees. Hernstadt said the town contributes about $210,000 from its General Fund to Bay Oaks and $108,000 to the pool.

Hernstadt was also critical of former Mayor Anita Cereceda who sent the council a letter asking them to consider pausing the construction of the new Bay Oaks building. Hernstadt said one issue (the fees being raised) had nothing to do with the other (the new building). The town council did not even discuss Cereceda’s letter when they met Monday.

The new entrance to Bay Oaks, which is what the entire project started as, is now being worked on. The project grew from a new entrance to an entirely new campus that will cost at least $6 million to build.

When discussing the fees at the special Bay Oaks meeting, committee member Bruce Butcher called Bay Oaks “a hole you throw money into.” And, he added, “the new building will be a much bigger hole. Apparently nobody looked into that.”

Committee Chair Barbara Hill said Bay Oaks has always been perceived as a community amenity, a quality of life issue.

The town plans to hire 4 new employees at the end of this year and start training them to work in the new building. Hernstadt has repeatedly said there’s not enough money in the budget or from the $10 million the town borrowed, to complete the new Bay Oaks building and furnish it. He also said on Monday that the bulk of that $10 million will be used for the new Bay Oaks building. It’s unclear what that means for the Times Square rehabilitation project which is one of the big three projects in addition to the new Bayside Park, which should be opening soon.

Here are the new proposed fees for the pool and Bay Oaks that the committee has recommended the town council approve during the budget process. If you would like a copy of these proposed fees by e-mail, so they are easier to read, send a note to edryantheeditor@gmail.com