Whether the city should charge the Cal Ripken Baseball League and the Waldo County YMCA a fee to use Walsh Field Complex was debated by council members during a meeting on March 4 .

Parks and Recreation Director Norm Poirier appeared before the city council seeking direction from officials about whether he should negotiate with the Cal Ripken Baseball League and the Waldo County YMCA in regards to charging an annual fee.

The idea of charging the two entities a fee came about a result of the city directing its department heads to find other sources of revenue in the budget, as well as the fact the maintenance of the Walsh Field Complex costs taxpayers $17,024.

In a memorandum to councilors, Poirier pointed out the complex is used exclusively by the Cal Ripken League for baseball, the YMCA for softball and tee ball and the Friends of Belfast Parks with the Dog Park, which is open to the general public.

Councilor Eric Sanders asked to speak to the issue having served as the president of the Cal Ripken League last year, and as a parent of a child who plays in the league.

Sanders said about 115 children participate in the league and there is a $20 fee to play; however, if a child's parent is unable to afford the fee, the child can still play. While he was president, Sanders said there were not any issues with families being unable to afford the fee.

The money is then used to purchase uniforms, baseballs and other supplies for the teams.

Sanders said a yearly fee of $500 may be possible, although would still represent a significant expense for the league.

“To us, $500 is a lot of money,” Sanders said. “We don't feel that we can afford much of a payback to the city on an annual basis.”

At the same time, Sanders acknowledged city officials have charged department heads with finding ways to generate additional revenue.

Councilor Roger Lee commented that charging a fee to use the Walsh Field Complex is inconsistent because the city does not charge to use other facilities, such as the city pool.

In lieu of charging a fee, Councilor Nancy Hamilton suggested Poirier could pursue an agreement that states the organizations that use the complex also maintain it. Sanders replied to Hamilton's suggestion and said that option was done in the past.

Poirier suggested the possibility of having the Cal Ripken League and the Waldo County YMCA provide the supplies for materials that are used on the field, while the city could continue to maintain some of the higher cost items, such as the fence, at the complex.

While the Cal Ripken League has had success with raising funds or acquiring donations in the past, Sanders questioned the long-term viability of such an approach. He noted that Hannaford, for many years, had donated bags of flour to the league to line the base paths. However, when the league approached the store in recent years, Hannaford has been able to donate only $50 worth of flour.

As discussion continued, Mayor Walter Ash expressed his opposition to charging the Cal Ripken League or Waldo County YMCA a yearly fee to use the Walsh Field Complex, or for other facilities, such as the city pool.

“My taxes are more than I can pay right now but, by God, I'll come through for things like this,” Ash said.

Councilors eventually voted to authorize Poirier to negotiate with the Cal Ripken League and the YMCA to work out an agreement that works for all of the involved parties.