New County Policy Threatens Existence Of County Little League

Editor’s note: The Los Alamos Reporter has reached out to County Manager Steven Lynne on the allegations in the commentary below.

BY JOSE RODRIGUEZ
President, Board of Directors
Los Alamos County Little League

Dear Chairman and Members of the Council, 

The Los Alamos County Little League (LACLL) is the longest-chartered non-profit youth sports organization in  Los Alamos County. Annually, LACLL provides an opportunity for hundreds of children in our community to  exercise, have fun and build relationships. 

Local government parks and recreation departments have a unique opportunity to help foster the health and  wellbeing of the children in their communities by providing community-based sports leagues access to their  recreational facilities. As a priority area for the Los Alamos County Council, the county open spaces are greatly  valued by the community and should be used to provide recreational and economic growth. 

Unfortunately, an update to county policy 1735 (Use and Rental of County Lands/Facilities) threatens the  ability of LACLL, and other local non-profit youth sports organizations, to continue to provide healthy outdoor  activities to the children of our community. As published in the Los Alamos Daily Post on 3/17/22 [1], the new  policy will require all field-user organizations (except Los Alamos County Public Schools) to pay $28.54 per  hour to use a county field. 

The updated policy also provides an option to pay the field-use fees with “volunteer” service hours (one hour  of volunteer work credit for one hour of field use). However, LACLL is already a 100% volunteer organization.  For each hour of field use, we typically have two head coaches, two to four assistant coaches, two team  parents and one to two umpires, all volunteering their time to run games and practices. In other words,  volunteers already provide, on average, 8.5 hours of service for each hour of field use. In a typical year,  volunteers provide approximately 17,700 hours of service for games and practices. (And this doesn’t include  the hundreds of hours that we, the LACLL board, volunteer each year to run the league.) 

The updated policy allows non-profit companies or organizations to request a full discount for the rental of  county facilities. On February 21, 2022, the LACLL Board submitted a letter addressed to Mr. Steven Lynne, Los  Alamos County Manager, requesting a full waiver of fees based on our non-profit (501-c3) status. To date we  have received no official response to our letter. Instead we were sent an invoice for $41,640 for the use of  fields at the North Mesa and Overlook facilities in 2022. 

As LACLL is a non-profit organization, we have no choice but to pass this cost of $41,640 to participants in the  form of increased registration fees. With approximately 350 participants annually, the cost per child would  have to increase by $170 just to cover the new field-use fees. LACLL strives to keep our registration fees low in  order to provide an affordable option for youth sports in Los Alamos County. Our current registration fee, 

which covers insurance, uniforms and equipment, is $100 per participant. The fee is already heavily subsidized  by generous contributions from local businesses and organizations. Increasing the fee to $270 per child will, at  a minimum, drive away low-income families. At worst, the increased cost will drive registration below the  critical threshold of participants necessary to sustain the minimum number of teams to field a league, forcing  the LACLL to shudder the league, and at the same time leave multiple baseball and softball fields unused  throughout the county. 

We recognize that the updated policy is intended to help recover a portion of the County’s cost to properly  maintain the facilities, but these proposed fees legitimately threaten the existence of Little League baseball  and softball in Los Alamos County. The LACLL Board requests your assistance with escalating the review and  

approval process for our request for a full waiver of fees. Or, at the very least, we request the county to  recognize the volunteer hours of the LACLL board, coaches, and parents as work credits towards the field-use  fees. LACLL has a long-standing healthy working relationship with Los Alamos County and we desire to work  with the council to come to a mutually agreeable resolution to this issue. 

We appreciate your prompt consideration of this matter. 

os Alamos County Little League Board of Directors 

Jose Rodriguez – President 

Heath Watkins

Melissa Doran 

Karmela Martinez

Alison Watkins

Jessica Strong

Joe Martinez 

Keith Morgan 

Mike Hogwood

Bryan Trujillo 

Rebecca Rodriguez 

Cynthia Deschamp

Kandus Jeffers

Robert Sayre 

Mitch Frank