District 208 and the Brookfield Zoo have reached an agreement that will allow Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 to continue using zoo property for its baseball and softball diamonds and its student parking lot.
RB will rent the athletics fields for a token $10 a year and will rent the parking lot for $10,000 a year according to the license agreement unanimously approved by the District 208 school board last week.
The agreement removes a long standing uncertainty about the future of the ballfields that sit on zoo property.
The agreements are for one year and will renew automatically in subsequent years unless either party decides not to renew the agreement.
The zoo is focusing its efforts on the northern part of its property and has no designs on the ballfields in the future, according to Brookfield Zoo Executive Director Stuart Strahl. Currently the zoo only occasionally uses the ballfields in the summer for overflow parking.
"The master plan that we have has zero use of the ball fields," Strahl said at a recent RB public forum. "We currently use them only for overflow parking. My druthers are to not even use it for that. We have nothing but positive plans to work together with RB."
RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann was equally happy with the agreement.
"We're very grateful for the partnership we have with the Brookfield Zoo and Dr. Strahl," said Baldermann.
The agreement to rent the parking lot may be short term.
If the $58.8 million bond issue that is before the voters on Maarch 21 is approved, RB plans to build a two-level parking garage on the site of the current student parking lot. The zoo would use the lot in the summer and on weekends.
"I would anticipate that if the referendum would pass we would come to a new agreement," said Baldermann. "We would contribute the parking deck and their contribution would be the land. They definitely expressed an interest in something longer term. If the referendum passes then we would hope to lock up a long-term lease."
The newly signed lease calls for the rent for the parking lot to be increased by $1,000 a year annually, a clause that gave some board members concern. But Baldermann said that since the school was getting the ballfields for next to nothing and because the parking lot lease was expected to be short term, he agreed to the annual rent increases for the parking lot.
Baldermann said that most of the parking lot rent would come from student parking lot fees which are now $60 a year. Currently about 100 students are allowed to park in the lot. Board Vice President Nancy Chmell said that the school may look into raising the student parking fees.
Course load fee
In other the action at its Feb. 14 meeting, the board will look into charging students a fee if they take more than six classes.
Currently 60 to 70 percent of RB students take more than six classes, Baldermann said, a cost to the district of approximately $500,000 to $600,000 a year.
But Baldermann said in a telephone interview Monday that the fee for extra classes was just an idea and that he didn't expect it to be implemented next year.
"At this point it is just a conversation," Baldermann said. "It's unlikely that it would happen next year. I think we'll be able to balance the budget without imposing that fee. It is something we have to look at."
The amount of such a fee has not yet been considered.
"We haven't even discussed that yet," said Baldermann.