Monday, November 7, 2011
Help Me Howard: School grounds fair play?
Public schools and their facilities are paid for by taxpayers. But does that mean taxpayers can use their facilities? Tonight one man's taking his so -called "court" battle to ''Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Almost everyone loves to watch sports. A lot of people like to play sports. Problem in South Florida is there aren't alot of places to play.
Neil Feger, wants to play racquetball: "And the group of guys we got all come here. This is like our place."
Neil Feger and a group of his friends have been playing racquetball after school is out at Braddock High for years. They love it.
Neil Feger: "Sometimes you have to wait you turn to play. We have four courts and their is a line of waiting."
At other school playgrounds, after the kids go home, in the evenings and weekends, you see people playing basketball, soccer and football.
Neil Feger: "Good sport. It's enjoyable, it's gets you releases the stress, saves me from taking my anger on other ways."
But lately the adults and kids who want to play after school have been told, 'Get out'.
Neil Feger: Now everythings been locked up. The tennis courts, the racquetball courts, the basketball courts, theyre all locked up and its frustrating when you come out here you cant play the places is locked down.
Frustrating for Neil because over the years he says he has painted the courts lines when they faded, and made sure they stay in great shape.
Neil Feger: And the courts there never been any damage, never been any vandalism to the courts. There is no graffiti on the courts and as long as were there, there's probably not going to be any graffiti or vandalism to the courts.
But now the school is telling the guy on the racquetball courts, the people on the football and soccer fields, the kids on the basketball courts, Go away. Which makes no sense to the adults or the young kids.
Neil Feger: The kid actually said to me, What do you want me to do? Hangout in the street corner with a gang 11:04 and sell drugs?
Playing sports may help keep the kids out of trouble. But if Neil and his friends try to play, they get in trouble.
Neil Feger: They were told to leave and that they were actually going to call the police if they didn't leave. They couldn't be here on school property.
Neil is a tax paying homeowner and being told to stay off the courts that his tax dollars helped build irritates him.
Neil Feger: We the public should be allowed to use the facility as long as were not interfering with the schools and the school activities or the kids or anything else. Its unfair, thats what I think. I think its totally unreasonable.
Well Howard, people like Neil paid to build the public school, paid to build the courts, the fields and still pay to maintain them. So legally can the taxpayers be told, Stay away?
Howard Finkelstein: State law says that school boards are not required to allow nearby taxpayers to use the facilities after school is out. However, that law does not block school districts from allowing peole to use their courts and fields, and if the district wants to, they can let people play there for free or they can charge them.
When we talked to the Miami-Dade school district spokesman he told they told us the players must pay $150 to rent the courts or fields and have insurance that costs $300 per year.
The grounds are open to anyone who can pay and in all schools the principal has the power to cut the rental fee in half.
In Broward, they dont allow any individuals not associated with an organization to use the schools grounds. And even if you qualify in Broward, you have to pay $145 each time you play and the insurance is $300 per year per group.
The districts say the rent is to cover their costs and the insurance to protect them.
Howard Finkelstein: Stopping a couple of kids from picking up a basketball and shooting hoops after school seems wrong. The only way to change it- call your school board member and let them know how you feel.
We know how Neil feels. Being told he has to pay $150 every time he wants to play racquetball means he wont be playing racquetball here anymore.
Neil Feger: I dont think thats an option. Its just dosent seem right, it just dosent seem we should be charged for something we are realistically already paying for.
Patrick fraser: Obviously the districts dont mind people playing on the courts and fields after school is out. Otherwise they wouldnt let people pay to play. The problem is the price and most people cant afford $150 every time they want to shoot a few baskets or kick a soccer ball. Like howard said, contact some school board members.
Tired of playing around with a problem? Wanna rent some piece of mind? Shoot it over to us. Howard has been schooled in the law and hopefully will remember what he learned.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com