Keller wants Fort Worth to help pay for sports park

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Who uses the park

Primary users of the Keller Sports Park

Keller Youth Association -- 64 percent nonresidents

Keller Soccer Association -- 49 percent nonresidents

Keller Horse Owners Association/Keller Saddle Club -- 70 percent nonresidents

Alliance Rugby Club -- 80 percent nonresidents

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KELLER -- Ted Herbert is a Keller resident and has two daughters who play softball at the Keller Sports Park.

In recent years, as the Keller district has built schools in the booming north Fort Worth area, Herbert said he has seen more and more kids participating in sports leagues at the park, which is operated by the city of Keller.

Herbert, like Keller city officials, said he believes that the city of Fort Worth should help pay for the operation of the park, which sits just south of Golden Triangle Boulevard on the west side of Keller.

"It's a tough call, but at the end of the day, I think Fort Worth should pony up the funds," he said. "Whether it is 47 percent or 20 percent, I don't know. But I think they should contribute something."

Next month, Keller officials will ask the Fort Worth council to approve spending $350,000 annually to help pay operational costs at the sprawling sports park. Annual operating cost for the park is about $750,000, officials said.

Should Fort Worth balk at the funding request, Keller officials say, they will begin charging a nonresident fee to participate in leagues at the park, which consists of baseball, softball, soccer and football fields.

Keller City Manager Steve Polasek said 62 percent of users of the sports park are nonresidents, with 47 percent being north Fort Worth residents.

The item will be presented at the Fort Worth City Council meeting May 7, Polasek said.

"If no agreement or progress is reached, then we could proceed as indicated ... to begin an implementation process for a nonresident fee structure beginning fall 2013," Polasek said during a recent pre-council meeting.

Currently, Keller taxpayers are paying for the park's operational costs.

John Harms, a Saginaw resident who has two daughters playing softball at the park, said he doesn't think it's appropriate for the city of Keller to ask another city to help with costs, operational or otherwise.

"Keller built this nice ballpark; they should expect to pay for it and not request other cities to pay for what they built," Harms said.

Fort Worth proposal

Keller officials began dialogue with Fort Worth officials more than a year ago to come up with a solution.

"Over the course of more than a year, we've had numerous meetings with key city of Fort Worth staff members. We've had meetings with city of Fort Worth elected officials," Polasek said.

Polasek said a few months ago that Fort Worth officials suggested that Keller put together a proposal letter that might spell out opportunities to work together on the issue.

On Feb. 5, Polasek asked the Keller City Council for direction concerning the draft proposal. In the letter, which requested a response by March 29, Keller officials asked Fort Worth to pay a percentage of operating costs.

Polasek said that besides asking for $350,000 annually, the letter asked Fort Worth to consider sharing in some of the debt service interest.

In a letter sent to Polasek last week, Fort Worth did not respond directly to the proposal. He declined to provide details about the letter. Polasek said he later spoke with Fort Worth City Manager Tom Higgins, who said Fort Worth is committed to finding a solution.

"He also is in agreement and committed to working expeditiously, as I mentioned to him that this has been an ongoing point of discussion, and it has taken a long time to get to where we are today, which really isn't very far," Polasek said.

Fort Worth city officials did not return messages left by the Star-Telegram.

Offended by response

Keller Councilman Gary Reaves said he is displeased with the response letter sent by Fort Worth.

"I'm deeply disappointed in their response, or lack of response," Reaves said. "The letter goes on and on and pretty much says nothing. It didn't even address our proposal and that's just frankly, deeply disappointing."

Reaves said the proposal of $350,000 that Keller gave to Fort Worth is an "extremely good deal for them."

"They couldn't take that money and provide all of those services for all of those residents that live in north Fort Worth," Reaves said. "I'm so disappointed in their response that it's difficult to have any further conversations with them, if they can't generate a more meaningful response to begin with."

Councilman Doug Miller also expressed disappointment in the letter.

"As one elected representative in this town, and I only speak for myself, I will not be bullied by the city of Fort Worth...," Miller said. "I took offense to it."

Susan McFarland, 817-390-7547

Twitter: @susanmcfarland1

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