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Abilenians may soon pay to use electrical outlets at city parks

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ABILENE, Texas -- The City of Abilene may soon charge a $20 fee to use locked electrical outlets at city parks.

It, however, is causing controversy among council members.

"If a mom has her kids at the park and she brings a portable radio or cell phone charger, we're going charge $20 to plug in?” asked Councilman Steve Savage. "I don't think $20 for somebody to plug in at a city park when they already pay city taxes to have that park... I don't think that's right."

Director of Community Services Lesli Andrews said this ordinance is meant for people who want to plug in amplifiers or lights for concerts or other events, but that's not specified in the ordinance.

The ordinance reads: Begin charging a new $20 use fee for citizens who wish to use the City of Abilene electrical outlets in City Parks.

Although Savage disagreed with implementing the fee, everyone else on council was for it.

"Taxpayers are already paying for the park, but that is extra electricity that's being used,” said Councilman Kyle McAlister. “I don't have a problem with you coming to the park and you want to plug up amplifiers and lights and everything, that you have to pay 20 bucks for it. I have no problem with that.”

According to City Manager Robert Hanna, city staff believes $20 is a fair cost after factoring in the cost of electricity used and the cost of sending a city worker to unlock and lock the electrical box.

Andrews said the fee only applies to locked outlets. Outlets that aren't locked can be used by the public.

Also in this ordinance, the city wants to increase the Adventure Cove admission fee from $6.50 to $7.

They also want to charge $135 for the Shallow Water Lifeguarding Course and charge a fee for the Mayor's Race, a new recreation event.

Lastly, they want to host the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation track meet every three years and charge a $5 admission fee. These changes will bring in an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in increased revenue.

There will be a public hearing on this ordinance at next Thursday's meeting.

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