As a former recreation professional, liaison to our Recreation and Parks Commission and all-around avid sports and recreation nut, I feel a bit of a tug when I vote in a manner that does not seem to support these types of activities. However, I have found that one of my priorities these days on the BOA is to carefully look at every decision we make through a financial lens.

At our February 19, 2008 meeting, we discussed a request from the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to consider waiving soccer field rental fees for groups that might contribute to the cost of artificial turf to be installed on one or two of the Smith Middle School soccer fields. Note that although these fields are not owned by the Town, Carrboro is responsible for reserving and collecting rental fees for the community soccer field at Smith, pursuant to an inter-local agreement.

After we received an initial staff report, I asked several follow-up questions in an effort to find a way to justify contributing in some fashion to this request, but in the end, it simply did not make financial sense. For one, we were not certain of the total amount of rental fees that were to be waived, because of the uncertainty of the amount of money groups might contribute, and the uncertainty of the cost of the turf on the field or fields. Second, if we waived the fees until these groups were totally paid back for their contributions, these groups might use the fields for many years, quite possibly well beyond the life of the fields. Finally, in an effort to look at the installation of artificial turf in a way that could end up generating more revenue for the Town because the fields would be more marketable, past rental records showed that the groups that would be contributing to the cost of the fields currently use most of the prime time on the fields, and that the time periods left to rent to make extra money would be minimal. Given this information, it would not have been a financially responsible decision to waive these soccer field rental fees.

As for road races … we have had an increasing number of road race requests come before the BOA. We have asked staff to prepare a report on how frequent these races are and how much they impact staff. These road races are usually held early Saturday mornings.

The benefits of having road races are many. Carrboro has a large running population, and many groups start their runs at the Town’s perennial store for runners, Fleet Feet, located in Carr Mill Mall. A visual demonstration to fitness and health is one we want to continue and promote. At the same time, we are aware that these road races have an impact on residents, neighborhoods and traffic flow in our community, as well as the workload of Town staff.

The time may be approaching when we might need to put a cap on the number of races we authorize in the Town. In addition, to date we have only charged what is ascertainable as direct costs to these road race organizers. We may need to consider a modification of what we charge, particularly with regard to any for-profit road races. In any event, whatever we do, we need to give due consideration to our runners as well as our community.