MADISON — The Boone County Commission has made an exception to a stance they made this summer regarding fees related to the use of county owned community centers.

During a regular session meeting on Nov. 19, Commissioners voted unanimously to allow youth buddy league basketball teams to use county facilities free of charge.

“We have six or eight teams and personally I don’t think we should charge them for a place to practice,” said Commission President Eddie Hendricks.

Commissioner Craig Bratcher responded, “We’re probably going to get some push back from some of the other groups.”

The commission voted unanimously to allow the use of the centers free of charge to the youth basketball teams.

“Can you make sure that they clean up after themselves?” said Maintenance Supervisor Kerry Dickens. “Because last time they did they left the doors open, lights on and their trash. The biggest problem we had was up Spruce River.”

Hendricks responded, “I’m going to have a long conversation with them about that.”

In June, the Boone County Commission denied a drug recovery group free use of a county-owned community center in Wharton, citing that if they let one group or organization use a facility for free of charge that they would have to “let them all.”

The $25 fee was to be assessed each time the recovery group used the facility and commissioners cited a budget shortfall as the reason for the county charging for the use of community centers.

In that public meeting in June, Hendicks said, “I’ll tell you why we have to charge,” he said. “The reason we have to charge is because of the financial situation we are in. Plus, we want to keep them open. It costs us $57,000 just for water and fire in those buildings. We have lost $10,000 in these buildings and people should have paid but it wasn’t monitored right. We’re not in a position anymore where we can let things go for free. There are other people that have been on a free ride with us for years and we’ve had to start charging them, also.”

Hendricks continued. “We are in dire straits here with money and I don’t know how else I can express this upon you.”

After the meeting, Commissioner Brett Kuhn explained why he voted to support providing the centers free of charge to the youth basketball league.

“So many things have been taken away from our kids and there isn’t as many things to do as there used to be,” Kuhn said. “Just look at how much things have changed over the last 20 to 30 years. These coaches volunteer their time and it is an opportunity to make a positive impression on a young person’s life. For an hour or two in the evening, we know where these kids are and they are learning basic athletic skills. Having the chance to help our youth in some way made this the exception for me. I can’t speak for our other commissioners, but that is how I feel and why I supported it.”

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.