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Public hearing set on fee changes at Panaewa Equestrian Center

MEDIA RELEASE

The County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation has set a public hearing for September 30 to accept public input on a plan to increase stall fees at the Panaewa Equestrian Center. It would be the first increase in stall fees at the equestrian center since at least 1995.

The County currently spends nearly $88,646 per year to operate the center, which includes security and maintenance staff costs as well as water and electric service. That works out to an annual cost of $1,477 per stall, and does not include costs associated with any large-scale maintenance projects such as re-roofing or other repairs.

The county currently charges $150 per year for each of the 60 stalls that are rented out to the public, or about 10 percent of the cost of making the stalls available to the public. The proposed new rate would be $500 per year.

County parks officials reviewed online market prices for private-sector stall rentals at facilities such as Quarter Horse Ranch and Volcano Paradise Ranch, and found market rates for stalls range from $3,000 to $4,200 per year, or 2000 percent to 2800 percent more than the County charges today.

After the planned fee increase, the private sector stall rentals still would be 600 percent to 840 percent higher than the proposed new stall fees. The county holds random drawings to decide who rents the stalls.

“We understand this may place a strain on some horse owners who grew accustomed to the extraordinarily low fees at the Panaewa Equestrian Center, but we must strike a better balance between the fees charged to users of the facility and the subsidy provided to this facility by county taxpayers,” said County Parks and Recreation Director Robert Fitzgerald. “We don’t like increasing fees to the public, but it is unfair to allow fees to remain the same for years while the county subsidy of the facility continues to grow.”

“We all know electric rates have increased, water rates have increased, the cost of security and maintenance services have increased, and yet the stall fees have remained the same. At some point we have to make adjustments in stall fees to be fair to the public at large,” Fitzgerald said.

A public hearing will be held on Thursday, September 30, 2010, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Aupuni Center Conference Room, 101 Aupuni Street, Hilo, to accept public testimony on the proposed rule amendments.

All interested persons are invited to state their views regarding the proposed rule amendments either orally at the hearing, in writing, or by email. Written testimony may be submitted by mail or fax (961-8411) to the Department of Parks and Recreation, 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 6, Hilo, HI 96720. Email testimony may be submitted to parks_recreation@co.hawaii.hi….. Type “Horse Stall Fee Increase” in the subject line of the message.

Written and emailed testimony must be received by 9 a.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2010. All written, emailed, and oral submissions will be fully considered and included in the record of the hearing.

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