Troy to seek public input on Alparon Park situation
TROY - It seems like just about everyone in the Troy area these days has an opinion on what should be done regarding the Troy Area School District's rent situation with Alparon Community Park.
Now, residents will have a chance to share their ideas with the school board on the matter.
At its meeting Tuesday, the school board agreed to hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday, June 18 in Troy to solicit ideas from the public on what do regarding the rent with Alparon Park. The board's regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m.
The Troy Area School District athletic director said previously that the school district is looking for other out-of-town sites for its home football games this fall as a result of a stalemate in negotiations with Alparon Park. No decision has been made, however.
The district is weighing whether to play the games at either the Towanda Area School District field or at Mansfield University, according to district athletic director Ché Regina.
The stumbling block in the negotiations between the district and the park is a proposed increase in the district's rent for the use of the park for the football games.
The two sides aren't seeing eye-to-eye on the increase proposed by the park board of directors.
Board vice president Dan Martin brought up the idea for the meeting, saying he wanted to give the public a chance to share its "two cents."
Board member Bill Hansell thought the board needed to be prepared for the crowd that might attend the meeting on June 18.
After the meeting, district business administrator Traci Gillil and compared the upcoming June 18 meeting to the recent meeting that Troy Borough Council had to get ideas from the public about the future of the sale barn.
The board is seeking to make a decision by the end of June.
In a previous interview, speaking for the district, Regina said that the park proposed increasing the district's base rent by 42 percent, from $10,600 to $15,000 for the 2013 football season.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bower, president of Alparon Community Park, said the increase being proposed by the park amounts to not 42 percent, but rather 1.5 percent. He said this is due to the fact that the school district has been paying the park $14,773 each year.
He said the $14,773 amount consisted of the rental payment of $10,600, plus an annual payment of $4,173 for the district's share of an $83,458.77 office/locker room complex at the park. But, Regina pointed out, the annual payments on the complex, which have taken place over the past 20 years, and are now paid off.
As a result, he is taking into account only the previous base rent of $10,600 in contending that the rent is increasing by 42 percent, from $10,600 to $15,000.
A copy of the park board of directors' proposed increase for the school district rent shows the amount at $15,000 for 2013, $15,450 for 2014, $15,914 for 2015, $16,391 for 2016, and $16,883 for 2017. The lease would begin with the 2013 Fall football schedule.
"As you can guess, this does not include the cost of lights, field paint, field seeding/prep, ticket takers/sellers, security and other utility costs," Regina commented in an emailed statement. "With all of these added into the new cost, we will be paying over $22,000 each year."
In a June 3 letter to the school district, Bower said that "the park board feels strongly that the new lease amount is a fair fee given what the school has paid in the past and feels the school is not taking into consideration the continued improvements and required maintenance that is necessary for such a large facility as Alparon Park."
He continued, "The lease originally signed in 1993 and which recently ended did not keep up with inflation over the 20-year term. For example, when the original lease was signed ACP (Alparon Community Park) did not have a single paid employee as most all the work was done by volunteers. Today we have four part-time employees to perform the needed maintenance and conduct the parks' business. The proposed lease fee of $15,000 to the TASD (Troy Area School District) was designed to help the park 'get to par' with respect to inflation and maintenance costs."
He also stated, "From a financial standpoint; ACP is a 501(c)3 non profit corporation per the IRS which operates seven months a year with an annual expense budget of $196,714. Our sources of income include mostly volunteer run events such as Troy Fair, Maple Fest, Gas Expo as well as additional lease/fee income for park facilities. ACP has recently benefited from leasing some of our facilities and camping lots to the natural gas industry. This additional income has enabled the park to fund many of our long overdue capital improvements and large dollar maintenance projects (tennis court, basketball court, grandstand facelift, etc.) and we have a long list of additional items which should be done. The extra income from the gas industry is fleeting and is on the decline as evidenced by the pipeline company leaving the Troy area and empty spaces in the camping area of the park."
Bower noted, "We certainly do not pretend to understand all the school budget challenges that you face but we do know our own budget and future income concerns. We continue to believe that our proposed base lease of $15,000 is a fair price given the usage of the facilities. Keep in mind this is a fixed cost fee of $15,000 plus electric. TASD can budget this expense with no unforeseen surprises. We would offer to present any additional information you wish at a school board work session."
"The park and the school have worked together in the past successfully and we would like to continue to be the home of the Troy Area School Districts' football program. It is not in the best interest of the school, the park or the community to have the 2013 Troy Football Season home games at a site other than Alparon Park."
At Tuesday's meeting, former board president Keith Morgan offered his views on the matter. He was the only person speaking during the public comment period. Attendance by the public was virtually non-existent with only a couple people showing up at the meeting.
"Once we take that (football games) out of the community, we lose," Morgan said. Morgan commented that few people would probably travel to such a place as Towanda for the football games.
"I'd like to see us stay here somehow," he said. Regarding all the revenue that flows into local businesses as a result of the football games, he said he would rather see the money stay local than be spent elsewhere.
"I hope we can work out something for another couple years," he said.
He began his comments by noting all the district's investments at the park, such as $83,458.77 around 1993 for the office/locker room complex at the park, approximately $20,000 around 2000 for a lighting system, and some other investments for paving and field upkeep. Noting the amount the district has been putting into the park each year and citing the park's asking amount, he stated, "so, we're about where we should be, you know."
Morgan suggested raising the gate price a dollar, noting this would be cheaper for people than driving to Towanda or Mansfield.