Jeremiah Lucas, 5, plays in the fountains Friday June 29, 2012 at Sunset Park's spray park.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Jeremiah Lucas, 5, plays in the fountains Friday June 29, 2012 at Sunset Park's spray park.

City revamps fees for public facilities

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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Recent changes enacted by city officials should prove financially beneficial, especially for families looking to take advantage of local amenities.

A number of changes to the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department fee schedule went into effect July 1 with the start of the new fiscal year. The most notable changes impact people looking to explore the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences or enjoy the amusements and rides offered at Sunset Park.

“We made these changes for customer service,” said Parks and Recreation Director Kelvin Yarrell. “If they went to Sunset Park before, they had to pay for all things individually – but in looking at other businesses like amusement parks, the theme we saw was people paying one fee and getting it all.

“We wanted to streamline our practices and benefit the citizens in the process.”

People heading to Sunset Park now can enjoy endless rides on the carousel and train or splash around in the spray park for $5 a person instead of $2 per ride and $3 per child in the water area. The Imperial Centre also followed suit by streamlining admittance to $6 per person rather than charging one fee for Children’s Museum admission and another for catching a show in the Cummins Planetarium.

“Our goal is to see increased visitation and participation in these areas,” Yarrell said. “We feel we may have priced ourselves out in the past – but by streamlining our fees, hopefully we’ll get many of our citizens and visitors to check out these valuable facilities.”

Sunday afternoon admission from 1 to 5 p.m. will continue to be free, allowing visitors to catch planetarium shows at the same time.

“We are going to study the ‘Sunday Funday’ this year, judging if those free days are doing what they are supposed to do with increased traffic flow,” Yarrell said. “This year is a chance to study our business practices and see what we may need to in the future.”

Officials also implemented a number of changes to the cost of renting city facilities.

Yarrell said all the changes enable officials to better gauge how efficiently the department uses city resources.

Parks and Recreation departments are notorious for having a relatively low recovery rate of revenue versus expenses. Yarrell said most municipalities do not include debt in the recovery percentage, but Rocky Mount does – leading the department to average an 11 percent recovery rate. The national average is between 28 percent and 35 percent, Yarrell said, adding that if the department’s $2.5 million in debt was subtracted from the equation, Rocky Mount would be close to the national average.

“We’ve got a ways to go. But right now, we’re studying our operations and making some adjustments to streamline our customer service and how we do business,” he said. “Our vision is to be innovative, dynamic, engaged and aware while we do our best to serve the citizens.

“That is what is most important to us.”