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After 22 years, the town might end its agreement with the Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association and start its own youth sports program.
The arrangement – which started when Fuquay-Varina didn’t have its own parks and recreation department – no longer makes sense for the town, officials said.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit FVAA, which operates the youth sports leagues in return for free use of the town’s athletic fields, is left scrambling to figure out its future.
The public, town commissioners and the FVAA will get a chance to have their say about the proposed change during a hearing Aug. 6.
The town has been in negotiations with the FVAA for about three years to renegotiate an agreement. Although the FVAA started more than two decades ago, a formal agreement was only in place 11 years but expired a few years ago. Negotiations ended early this month when Town Manager Jon Barlow called the FVAA and said the town planned to start its own program
“After taking an inventory of our staff, facility assets and standard industry practices, our town staff believe this is the next step in our parks and recreation department’s evolution,” said Fuquay-Varina spokeswoman Susan Weis.
The town has spent $10 million in recent years to upgrade its parks and athletic fields.
The news of the town starting its own program was a shock to the FVAA, said board member Mike Tarpey. “In the last six months we thought we were real close,” Tarpey said of the relationship between the FVAA and the town. “It really surprised us.”
Tarpey said the FVAA’s board is unsure if the group can continue to operate if the town goes forward with its own program.
“It’s a government takeover of a nonprofit,” he said. “We are going to fight this fight.”
Tarpey said he doubted whether the town would actually save money by starting its own athletic program. The FVAA hosts about 10 sports for $1.1 million a year. It has about 300 volunteers and about 2,500 participating families.
The town is proposing to spend about $125,000 in the first year, starting its programming with youth basketball.
“Do they understand how much equipment costs?” Tarpey asked. “They say it’s going to be better, but it’s going to put the burden on taxpayers.”
The town program would be revenue-neutral and would pay for itself, said Fuquay-Varina Commissioner Cindy Sheldon, who was part of the negotiations with the association.
Sheldon said the town isn’t the bad guy here. She said her issue with the current arrangement is that residents don’t have access to public athletic fields that are being used by the FVAA, which mostly caters to families who live outside of town.
“Is this a money grab?” Sheldon asked. “No. This is protecting Fuquay-Varina’s assets.”
She said the town’s taxpayers are bearing the brunt of maintaining and paying for the fields. Under the new proposal, the FVAA could rent the fields for tournaments and games at the regular town rate.
If the town starts a sports program, most youth fees would be $40 for Fuquay-Varina residents and $65 for those who don’t live in town.
There would be no traveling sports teams, no scholarships would be offered, and an unlimited number of participants could take part.
For now, parents whose children play with the FVAA are left with more questions than answers. Members have created a Facebook page, Support the FVAA, to share information.
“For me, it’s a case of uncertainty,” said Jason Hamilton of Fuquay-Varina. “We’ve always had a great relationship with the FVAA. It could work out fine. We just don’t know. It remains to be seen.”
FVAA parent Tom Beauchesne faces a different dilemma. He lives outside the town limits in the Willow Spring community. He worries his two sons could be denied a spot with a town league if a lot of Fuquay-Varina residents sign up.
“What happens during a year where there are budgetary constraints?” Beauchesne said. “Do they restrict the number of kids who can play? How do you tell an 8-year-old they can’t play this year?”
Parent Tony Gichohi was shocked to hear about the town’s plans.
“I wondered why,” he said. “Because the FVAA has been doing a great job. … If it’s not broke, why are you fixing it?”