Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Over the years, McKinleyville Little League (MLL) and the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD) have had a rocky relationship. They’ve had heated disagreements over the fees charged by the district for use of the Hiller Sports Complex and about whether the fields are properly maintained.
But between baseball seasons, the two entities have always hammered out an agreement and patched things up. History will likely repeat itself this year, despite tensions which boiled over on social media last month after MLL received an invoice for its 2018 field usage.
‘This was a shock’
According to MLL, it received an invoice from the MCSD in December with a total due of $12,060.
“This was a shock to the league’s board, especially because it was about $2,000 more than last year’s bill of $10,320,” MLL posted on its Facebook page Jan. 19. “These numbers are not sustainable, and the league’s Board of Directors is considering the option of not being
able to play in McKinleyville. There is an effort to look for alternative field options.”
What followed was a slew of online comments, with people accusing the MCSD of ripping off and gouging the league. The MCSD was called greedy and there were insinuations that MCSD directors were somehow profiting from the little leaguers. As is often the case with online discussions, everything was black and white, with no room for shades of gray. Nuance did not exist, and there was an absence of information and an abundance of falsehoods.
So how did the MCSD calculate the bill for the little league? It used a contract that both the MCSD and MLL had agreed to.
Last year, the MCSD and Little League negotiated a contract (use agreement) which specifies how much the league would pay for field usage and how much credit the league would receive for helping maintain the facilities. The league signed the use agreement, which was approved by the MCSD Board of Directors.
Under the agreement, the league was required to submit game schedules and practice schedules, which the district then used to reserve the fields and to calculate the amount of field usage. The league also submitted a log of showing the amount of volunteer time spent mowing and trimming the fields.
According to a report submitted to the MCSD board by Recreation Director Lesley Frisbee, the league did not submit practice schedules and the volunteer log was incomplete. Frisbee said that staff did its best to fill in the blanks. Staff was aware that volunteers were mowing during a period of three weeks missing from the log, so staff logged this into the volunteer log.
The district created an invoice for the league that totaled $19,461, then applied a credit of $8,045 for the volunteer maintenance. With an additional charge of $645 for utilities and re-keying, the total due was $12,061.
It appears that the MLL invoice would have been even higher had the district not found some mistakes and made adjustments. According to Frisbee, the game schedules submitted by MLL last April listed game times as being from 4 to 8 p.m., when they are actually from 5 to 7 p.m. The MCSD caught the error, thereby reducing the number of field usage hours the league would need to pay for.
After the social media brouhaha, the district was contacted by MLL representative Rachelle Hicks, who informed staff that the invoice included charges for dates and times when the league wasn’t using the fields.
The district responded by asking the league to submit the dates and hours for when it actually used the fields. This information brought the total charge down to $5,398 for 1,279.5 hours of field use, which is a charge of roughly $4.22 an hour.
At the Feb. 6 MCSD board meeting, MLL President Eric Agliolo discussed the history of the district’s charges for field use dating back to 2013. The cost, he said, has gone up significantly over the years.
Agliolo said that MLL has made significant improvements to the park and continues to do so. When asked by the board whether the final resolution to the 2018 invoice was adequate, Agliolo said he thought it was a fair and reasonable price.
He also suggested that the district simply charge the league a flat fee, rather than having a complicated system of hourly usage fees and volunteer credits.
Frisbee told the board to avoid such situations from happening again, she will give field users an estimated invoice based upon their proposed field use. The contracts are written so that the users can calculate in advance how much field use will cost, Frisbee said.
The league and the district will soon begin the process of working out a use agreement for the coming baseball season.
The annual cost of maintaining the Hiller Sports Complex in 2018 was $77,426. About two-thirds of that expense is paid for with Measure B funds, a property tax assessment approved by voters in 1992 and again in 2011. Taxpayers essentially subsidize the upkeep of the sports fields, with various users paying about a third of the cost.