PORTAGE | The Portage Park Department staff has been asked to develop a policy setting standards for allowing discounted rental fees to nonprofit groups.

The park board last week wrangled with requests for nonprofit groups asking for discounts on rentals for anything from shelters to softball fields.

Board members said they want to help out groups, but can't do it at the cost of taxpayer dollars. Instead, they asked the staff to look at costs incurred by the parks for hosting these sort of events and make some recommendations.

"We need to put together some sort of facilities use agreement. We need some sort of policy," said Park Board President Ken Lorenz. In the past, he added, the decision to allow groups a discounted rental rate was made internally and, sometimes, the discounts offered groups weren't always equal.

Recently the staff has been bringing the requests to the board on a case-by-case basis.

Lorenz said he'd like to see a policy developed based on the user, ranging from a fellow government agency to a nonprofit group.

Park Superintendent Jenny Orsburn said the department receives more than two dozen requests annually for discounted rates.

Last week the board approved a discount from $744 to $250 for Family Bible Church to rent two shelters for a week. The board cut in half the $1,800 fee for the Indiana Disabled Veterans Association to rent softball fields for five consecutive Sundays in September for a softball tournament to benefit the Wounded Warriors.  The board also cut in half the $400 fee for a softball tournament in June for the local nonprofit Hannah's Hope.

"We need to at least cover our costs," Orsburn said about discounting fees.

Park costs for events vary and include items ranging from trash removal to grooming fields to moving picnic tables and providing maintenance staff.

Both Lorenz and Orsburn said they hope to have a proposed policy in the board's hands by its May 20 meeting for continued discussion and possible action.


Joyce has been a staff writer for The Times for more than 20 years. She covers the city and school district in Portage and surrounding areas.