Wednesday, May 27, 2009

County Rec Center: What Should Membership Cost?

Roanoke County's new Taj Ma Rec Center (officially the Green Ridge Recreation Center, but I like Taj better), a 76,000 square foot extravagance in a time of diminished governmental capacity, brings forth a couple of interesting philosophical questions:

1. Is a huge recreation center financed by taxpayers needed and is that need a function of government?
2. If it is needed, are the fees that have been suggested for users ($66 for a family per month, plus $175 a season for water park use) out of line?

I'm a government guy, so my answer to Question 1 is, "probably no, but let's see how Question 2 goes."

Roanoke County is an affluent locality where few poor--or even marginal-- people live. But there are some and a single mother with three busy children (who could use a membership in a rec center) will have some difficulty coming up with a fair chunk of extra money every 30 days. "OK, kids, your choice: rec center, shoes, food, place to live ..."

The fee schedule (which also includes daily rates for the water park) has been structured to pay for operating expenses. The park is scheduled to open in January of 2010 and memberships will go on sale in August.

The question, class, is: if the locality builds it, should the price structure pay for it? That represents a user fee, which many people like, but which shuts out those with little.

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