New Milford town council raises some park fees against opposition

New Milford residents will see their fees for to use town parks like Lynn Deming Park, above, after the Town Council this week approved the increase.

New Milford residents will see their fees for to use town parks like Lynn Deming Park, above, after the Town Council this week approved the increase.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

NEW MILFORD — Some parks fees for local residents will be slightly higher after New Milford Town Council members approved an increase this week.

The change, which comes as the town prepares to approve a 2021-22 budget, will include a $100 boat slip and sticker fee increase, with seniors having their fee raised $75 from the previous year.

Vehicle passes will increase by $5 with a $40 payment for any secondary cars within the same family. The fee for the Summer Playground camp program will also increase, with the first child in each family costing an additional $70 from the previous year.

Park and program fees for nonresidents will also grow slightly.

The raise in park fees comes as the town’s Parks and Recreation Department tries to raise its revenue while dealing with uncertainty from the pandemic.

During the council’s discussion this week, David Lawson urged his fellow council members to eliminate fees senior citizens pay to access New Milford parks.

He argued the fees generated by seniors, about $6,000, could easily be covered by the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget surplus or by pulling the money from New Milford’s undesignated fund. Last year, the department had a $178,456 budget surplus, Lawson said.

Several other council members advised against Lawson’s idea. Councilman Tom Esposito said the “federal government can print money but the town of New Milford can’t.”

Katy Francis echoed Esposito’s opposition and said while she understood Lawson’s sentiment, the town needs the revenue to maintain parks and its staff. She added that the money in the surplus and undesignated fund could just as well be allocated toward other expenses.

Councilwoman Mary Jane Lundgren, who abstained from the vote, said she believes people “need a break right now” and it is a bad time to increase any fees for residents considering people are struggling so much, some even unable to put food on the table, nonetheless pay a park fee.

Lawson said “if that’s how we want to treat seniors, then fine, but I can’t support it.” In a 6-1 vote with one abstention, the town council approved the fee increases.