The lazy river at the North Pointe Aquatic Center. [City of Ballwin photo]

At the Oct. 10 Ballwin Board of Aldermen meeting, ideas were bandied about regarding possible recreation fee increases. Those were with respect to the city’s budget and also resident complaints about overcrowding.

On Oct. 24, the board voted 5-4 to adopt the parks and recreation department’s recommendations for amending its current fee structure; mostly adding to daily non-resident fees. Mayor Tim Pogue cast the tie-breaking vote as Bill 4141 became Ordinance 22-27.

At the start of the discussion, Alderman Michael Finley (Ward 1), speaking in reference to increasing daily non-resident fees at North Pointe Aquatic Center, asked if there was any consideration given to the number of people opposed to the dollar amount. He suggested Ballwin North Pointe use could require non-resident guests to be pass holders or the guest of a Ballwin resident.

“In regard to the issue of crowding, the concern wasn’t just residents bringing folks with them. It was all about all numbers,” City Administrator Eric Sterman said.

“I was not thinking about just restricting non-residents to ones who come with residents,” Parks & Recreation Director Chris Conway said. “That would hurt us in the long run.”

Discussion among the aldermen included concern about excluding non-resident North Pointe users as well as overcrowding affecting all users.

Conway noted that a good day brings about 1,000 people to North Pointe, and when you see the lower parking lot full, it’s a busy day. He added that the lot was full or near full almost every weekend this past summer.

Regarding a suggestion to limit non-resident use, Pogue said: “The only issue I have with limiting the number of non-residents per day is we can be really busy in the morning and afternoon, then it can kind of die off later on with early people leaving and plenty of room in the park,” Pogue said.

Conway added, “Sometimes people don’t show up. I know Maryland Heights would sell tickets for a weekend, and if you didn’t buy tickets for that day or the day prior, you could buy them in the parking lot if any were available. It’s tough to on the fly determine how many non-residents you have in the facility at any given time. You’d also have to know how many non-residents leave at any given point. “

Per the recommendations, most of daily non-resident rates would increase $5; banquet center rental fees for both residents and non-residents would increase by $100 each day to be more in line with facilities of other nearby cities. According to Conway, very nominal fee increases would also be incurred for community center facility rentals.

“Pavilion rental increases of about $10 are nominal and also keeps them in line with nearby cities,” Conway said. “I’ve asked our staff, and they can’t remember the last time we did an increase. We’re talking some 20 years, and minimum wage was about $5 an hour back then. Also, every Saturday and Sunday, our staff is doing rounds (taking care of trash, taking care of restrooms, stocking up supplies and making sure entire sites are ready for the next rentals) and they’re doing overtime.”

Conway also noted that expenses continue to rise as do wages; 2023 will be the final year of Prop B those minimum wage increases.

“I think the staff has done a good job on this,” Alderman Jim Leahy (Ward 3) said. “We’re in a market where the suppliers are charging us more, we have to pay more for labor, so we have to raise our costs.”