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Council reaches out to other kids

Non-resident children will be able to use Pinellas Park facilities in this year for the same $5 fee that residents pay.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

PINELLAS PARK -- Council members, saying organized activities can keep children out of trouble, appear poised to discount admission to the city's recreational centers for young people who live outside the city.

Under the proposed plan, non-resident kids would pay $5 a year -- the same as residents and well under the current charge of $25.

The lowered fees would apply only to kids 16 and younger; non-resident adults and senior citizens still would be charged more to use the city's recreation centers.

At the end of a year, the plan would be evaluated before becoming permanent.

"Kids belong to all of us whether they're in the city or (not)," said Pinellas Park council member Ed Taylor, who proposed the discount. "It's something our city can do to reach out to youth."

Council member Rick Butler said he would defend the decision to any Pinellas Park taxpayer.

"There're kids out there raising themselves," Butler said. "If a parent gives them five bucks for recreation, God love 'em. Just hope they don't use it to go out and buy a quart of beer."

Council member Patricia Bailey-Snook agreed the idea was good if it meant saving even one child from getting into trouble. But she wanted to make sure that Pinellas Park kids got first chance at participating in the city's popular summer and swimming programs.

Those activities, which usually have a waiting list, would continue to be filled first by local kids. Any extra spaces would go to non-residential children. Rates for those programs will stay the same.

The trial fee will mean kids from areas outside Pinellas Park will be able to pay $5 to participate in the city's after-school programs, which include activities such as arts and crafts, movies and outdoor games. Parents still would have to pay for extras, such as field trips.

The fee will not reduce any costs associated with joining the city's recreation sports leagues. Those activities -- baseball, soccer, football and cheerleading -- already make room for non-Pinellas Park kids.

The city has no control over any fees because the leagues contract with Pinellas Park for the use of the facilities, said Joel Garren, Pinellas Park recreation director.

Taylor said his idea to reduce the recreation fees for kids has been germinating for a while. One factor in raising the issue now, he said, is the April 13 wrestling match fundraiser that will benefit the Little League.

The "Annexation Anarchy Match" will pit six-man tag teams coached by Bud Wortendyke, Pinellas Park's annexation guru, and Ray Neri, head of the Lealman Community Association that opposes the city's annexation policies.

The idea is to have some fun playing off the news. Neri agreed to participate if Pinellas Park would help Lealman kids in some way. Reducing the costs of the recreation center pass will help do that, Taylor said.

Neri said he was happy with the gesture. Kids should not be victims of the disagreements between adults.

"I think it's a good PR move for them to extend that hand," Neri said. "I think that's a good thing for them to do. They didn't have to do it. Anyone who offers kids a break and thinks about kids outside their city, that's a good thing."

Neri waited a beat, then added, "Now, if we can just get them to think that way about annexation."

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