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Arizona City Ponders Leaving the RV Park Business

June 3, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Faced with dwindling revenues and a lackluster economy, the city of St. John’s, Ariz., is looking at scaling back, or even closing, the RV park at the fairgrounds, according to the White Mountain Independent, Show Low, Ariz.

The city’s money-losing RV campground is also being criticized by operators of private RV parks in the city who are saying the city should not be competing with them.

Last year, (fiscal year 2008-09) the city’s RV park did make money ($7,566) driven primarily by construction workers staying there, but this year it’s $14,439 in the red. Last year’s profit was the first time the park’s revenues have ever exceeded expenses. This year park use has declined by 55%, according to Ross Carpenter, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

In the 2008-09 the park generated $57,245 wiht expenses of $49,379. To date this year, the fiscal year ends June 30, the park generated $21,486 in revenues with $35,915 in expenses.

The city RV park’s rates are $300 per month, $16 per night or $90 per week, which includes electricity, water and sewer.

The RV park was created to provide a campground for special events, horse racing and other livestock shows. In recent years the park has a dozen or so special events each year, including two high school rodeos, three barrel races, two gun shows, a pony club event and horse racing.

Over the years, however, its use has expanded and now there are semi-permanent residents. This month there are four long-term residents but by the end of May that was expected to be reduced to two.

“I think it’s gone beyond what it was intended to be,” said Mayor Frederick Nielsen.

“It’s time to get back to the intent of that park,” said councilor Michael Cirivello, “As a citizen, I don’t like subsidizing all these special events so it’s convenient to them. I think it should be made available to them but I think they should pay the cost.”

A common assertion when supporting the expenditure of public funds to enable special events is that the event will draw people from out of town resulting in a net gain for the community. Nielsen described that theory as a “red herring … because when all the costs are tallied the city may be “spending $2,000 to make $30.”

“We keep saying these events are making us money, but when you really analyze what you’re paying for upkeep, I’d be hard pressed to believe this is actually a money-maker.

“If we want to have the facilities open for recreation and we know we’re going to lose money, that’s another thing.”

Other suggestions put on the table for consideration by the city councilors included limiting the length of stay, limiting the RV park’s use to special events only, closing it for the winter and charging sufficient fees to ensure the park’s users pay all the costs of operating and maintaining the facility.

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