Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill back in talks with Leroy Springs

Negotiations between the Town of Fort Mill and Leroy Springs and Co. are back on track.

But don’t look for the town to take the helm of a conglomeration of Leroy Springs’ parks, daycare programs and other services.

“We are still discussing ways that we can help them provide recreation in the town,” David Hudspeth, town manager, said. “We are trying to take over what they consider to be their athletics program.”

According to company officials, it seems a good bet the town will take over the sports offered through the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex. Fort Mill soon will oversee eight recreational programs, Leroy Springs President Tim Patterson said.

“We’re just working through the details of the contract right now,” Patterson said. “We hope to have something together soon.”

If the latest round of negotiations bear fruit, the town will oversee LSRC wrestling, baseball, soccer, basketball, football, recreational cheerleading, softball and tee-Ball programs, Patterson and Hudspeth both said.

“One thing that does not include is swimming,” Hudspeth said.

The LSRC, which has a regulation-size pool, fields a competitive swim team.

Other recreational outlets are possible, Hudspeth said.

“We want to look at the possibility of adding other things,” Hudspeth said. “Volleyball. Lacrosse.”

Officials expect to wrap up negotiations this month, paving the way for a change of guard this spring, Hudspeth said.

“We are trying to assume responsibility prior to spring sports starting,” Hudspeth said.

Less than five months ago, negotiations took a detour when town officials rejected an offer to take over the privately-held conglomeration of daycare programs, parks and other services. The talks, first reported in the Times last May, included Leroy Springs and Co. giving the Town of Fort Mill the recreation complex. Part of that deal also included the town signing a 10-year lease for soccer and baseball fields as well as tennis courts and Banks Street gym.

The town decided in November it was too expensive to assume control of all the programs run out of the complex and pay for building maintenance.

But talks weren’t tabled. Instead, the focal point narrowed.

“It was a matter of finding the right fit,” Patterson said. “It was always evident that the town was interested in getting into recreation.”

Taking that route allows Leroy Springs to regroup, Patterson said.

“It’s been real clear as time goes on that we’re looking to move some operations to the town and change our focus,” Patterson said.

Cementing the deal would allow Leroy Springs to do just that, he said.

“We’re going to be able to refocus the financial and manpower resources that we’ve had dedicated to athletics to other activities and programs within Leroy Springs,” Patterson said.

Yet, some things will stay the same.

“The town will reimburse us abut $30,000 because we will continue to do administrative support for them,” Patterson said. “We’ll be giving them a lease and license to use our facilities. We’re handing over all the equipment that we have.”

That move will help the town realize a cost saver as it steps into the recreational arena.

“It doesn’t really change a lot for the participants,” Patterson said. “They will still register at the complex. They will still play at the complex. We will do all the behind the scene work.”

A year ago, the LSRC had 1,399 memberships – nearly 100 more than the prior year.

“Current fees will probably remain the same throughout 2010,” Hudspeth said. “We will evaluate that (whether or not to increase fees) like we do all services for 2011.”

The town’s move to oversee recreation is not uncommon, he said.

“It’s more the norm that cities would have the recreation department,” Hudspeth said. “That’s certainly the case in the area. Rock Hill. York. Clover. It’s very typical for cities to administer those programs.”

Doing so means adjusting the town’s 2009-2010 fiscal year budget to make allowances for the new endeavor. It will cost a couple hundred thousand dollars annually, Hudspeth said.

However, “About half of that will be offset with fees and revenues,” he said.

The rest of the money will come from the town’s general fund, Hudspeth said.

The move also means the town will take on more manpower.

“They will be picking up some salaries and wages to run some activities,” Patterson said.

If the agreement is cemented, the town will pick up two full time Leroy Springs employees as well as some part-timers, Patterson said.

While the Town of Fort Mill and Leroy Springs work to iron out some details, at least one consensus is shared: The deal will be a “win-win,” Patterson said.

Hudspeth agreed.

“It allows us to be more involved in recreation, which is a core function of municipalities, he said.”