Milford youth sports associations will pay $25 an hour to use the new athletics field at Milford High School, the School Committee agreed Wednesday, shelving a proposal to charge three times as much.
The rate, for Milford organizations only, will continue for two years, giving school and youth association representatives more time to review information and set a rate that will provide some funds for maintenance.
The School Committee adopted the fee in a 6-1 vote. Patrick Holland voted against, saying he thought a better solution was a year of no-fees for the field.
School Committee members said they sympathized with the youth sports associations that were taken aback by the proposed $75 an hour fee, and wanted to make sure children had access to the new field this spring.
The $75-an-hour fee was the recommendation of a School Committee subcommittee on policy, based on the rates charged by several surrounding communities. It was triple the rate that had been recommended by the town's Community Fields Committee.
In a special meeting — convened to set the fees before the youth soccer and lacrosse teams begin their 2012 seasons — board members said they did not want to hurt the volunteer associations, which had formed participation fees for families based on the $25 hourly field cost.
"The most important thing is to get the kids and the organizations out there using the field, which was approved by the taxpayers," said School Committee member Rob Lanzetta.
The School Committee is expected to continue to discuss the larger policy the fee schedule fits into — a facilities use plan that will govern how community groups can use school facilities after-hours. In the future, the School Committee will have to resolve some discrepancies in what associations are paying to use the facilities, said Chairwoman Loriann Baranauskas.
She cited the gymnasium, used for basketball, which has a $100-an-hour rate for youth groups. Baranauskas and committee member Patrick Kennelly served in their last meeting Wednesday. Neither is running for re-election in the town election Monday.
Youth sports associations were represented in the audience at the meeting, but did not address the committee, which did not have a public comment section as part of its agenda.
After the vote, several youth sports leaders said they were pleased with the interim fix.
Vinny Zanella, president of Milford Youth Lacrosse, said he thought it was a fair compromise. He estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the group's participants would have not been able to afford the estimated $200 additional fee, had the $75-per-hour fee been imposed.
Milford Youth Lacrosse, a non-profit organization, has 241 children this season, beginning in the first grade. The children will begin using the field Sunday, he said, for a first game.
Paul Braza, president of the Milford-Hopedale Soccer Association, said the impact of the field fee would have been less severe on youth soccer, as opposed to youth lacrosse, because only the older soccer players are expected to use the high school field.
The soccer association has about 850 children this season, and its season begins April 7. About two-thirds of the children are from Milford.