Paying Too Much To Play May Lead to Privatization

ANN ARBOR — It costs a lot of money to keep up the Community Education and Recreation Department in Ann Arbor, a division of Ann Arbor Public Schools. The department collects nearly $5 million per year from fees and charges.

It is now balking, however, at a maintenance bill for $217,317 delivered by the Ann Arbor City Council. Education and Recreation Director Sara Aeschbach said she would not pay the bill for fear that the department would have to raise fees too high in order to cover the cost. She cited a former Ann Arbor City Council resolution stating that the city would pay for the maintenance of its own fields, including the ones used by her department.

Ann Arbor City Administrator Roger Fraser said he delivered the bill at the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ request. The bill includes costs for performing maintenance on playing fields utilized by the education and recreation department — mowing, clearing away trash and preparing the fields for games.

If forced to pay the bill, the education and recreation department predicts increased costs of $14 to $30 for children and increased costs of $319 for adults per season. Aeschbach said that she would look into hiring private maintenance firms in the future.

As of November 2004, the parties were still in negotiations over the maintenance bill.