During the Monday, June 15 Fenton Township Board of Trustees meeting, officials voted to extend the existing license for the Deer Run soccer facility through
June 30, 2021.
The vote, after much debate and input from numerous people, was 4-3, with Supervisor Bonnie Mathis, Clerk Bob Krug, Treasurer John Tucker, and Trustee Vince Lorraine voting yes. Trustees Robert Kesler, Mark Goupil, and Christine Reid voted no.
On June 30, the contract expires for the use of the field on Linden Road between AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) with Fenton Township as the holder of the sublease from Genesee County Parks & Recreation.
Fenton Township is working to cede its long-term sublease for the complex, and Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation is its first choice to take over the 40-acre facility.
After approximately 18 months of negotiations between the AYSO and SLPR, an agreement has not been reached. The three soccer clubs which use the field, AYSO, Nationals Genesee and La Forza Soccer Club, sent a letter to the Fenton Township Board to request the extension of the lease.
During the meeting, which took place via conference call, Clerk Robert Krug said he’s spoken with representatives from AYSO and SLPR and that he has concerns that once the deal is done, SLPR is going to do what they want. He’s heard rumors from numerous people that if SLPR gets the contract, they’ll give local school districts involved veto power on anything they want.
Supervisor Bonnie Mathis said that’s just a rumor and that she’s not going to believe anything until she sees official paperwork. She hasn’t seen any paperwork, she said, about budgets, contracts or plans.
Kim Bobier, from La Forza Soccer, said they don’t have time to sit through more negotiations because practice starts soon. The three clubs that use the field have an agreement to maintain the field and keep 900 kids playing soccer.
Bobier said they haven’t been able to agree on “a lot of things,” and that SLPR would add extra expenses like a “super complex” that would allow other sports to use the field. All the equipment on the field is owned by AYSO. SLPR wanted to hire an operations manager for the park, but the three organizations don’t want that because they already manage the park.
“We want something to call our home for a long time. Not just having a one year agreement and then have to do everything over again,” she said.
Rick Miracle, from Nationals Genesee, said there were several budgets proposed ranging from $60,000 to $100,000, and that they can’t enter into an agreement without outlined roles and responsibilities.
“With this being all about the kids, we want to work out as much as possible, but we ran out of time,” he said.
Pat Lockwood, Fenton City council woman and SLPR representative, said SLPR has more than 20 years of a proven track record of professionalism and management, servicing more than 4,700 kids and hundreds of adults with programs on a yearly basis.
Lockwood said they offered to cut a few costs, and that they would let the organizations operate uninterrupted. The field could be used for other sports as well as soccer, she said.
They support forming an advisory board after the new contract would be signed, which would be made up of individuals from school districts to work with the soccer groups and SLPR. Lockwood said she doesn’t know of any group that operated without an advisory board.
She asked the Fenton Township Board to continue to support SLPR and enter into the contract with the county and work with these organizations.
Fenton Township Attorney Jack Belzer said the township should not be involved in contracts for one group, and that local municipalities should not be controlling land in this way.
Shaun Shumaker, Genesee County commissioner and former Fenton Township trustee who also was on the SLPR board, said he’s been in talks with the involved and doesn’t believe they can come to an agreement soon. Shumaker said they could extend the lease, and that’s best for all parties involved. He doesn’t want mudslinging, but he said there’s justification for distrust between SLPR and the soccer groups.
He expressed hope with SLPR’s new executive director, Ed Koledo.