Council may increase fees at Lawton lakes

LAWTON_ You could be paying more to enjoy a day out on the lake this summer. The Lawton City Council is discussing increasing recreation fees by a few dollars at city lakes. It's to help offset a tighter budget next fiscal year. City officials say high fuel costs are partly to blame, but say it's mostly because they've been under-charging for far too long.

Every weekend the boat ramp at school house slough is packed, but now, with the record price of gas, a trip to the lake adds up quickly. "The trip out here, and then to be out here, you know, the food, everything else. It's just crazy," said one lakegoer.

But the City of Lawton is suffering with money too. So, city council is considering raising lake recreation fees by a few dollars, because they're already millions of dollars short for next year's budget. The first proposal is to increase the day use fee by a dollar -- to make it two dollars a day per car. "Those that are out here playing, they know they have to pay," said city councilman Jay Burke. "They're not going to quit coming just for a dollar increase in a fee."

Camping sites will increase three dollars. That money will be used later to address poor water and sewer systems at each camping site. It will also be used to install nicer public bathrooms. But the biggest price jump will be the permits for golf carts -- raising by 15 dollars. Burke said, "There's a lot of them that actually go off road, and they end up tearing up a lot of the grass areas."

The city says it's frustrating to pass off these costs to the lakegoers, because they don't want to discourage people from coming out and enjoying themselves, but city officials say they really have no other choice. Council is also considering raising annual fees for boathouses.

"Right now it's a $600 per year use, and we think it needs to be on a square foot basis, the bigger the boat house, obviously the more you would pay, and to make it equitable to what other lakes in our area are charging," said Burke.

The city favors these proposals, because they only charge the people who are using the lakes. According to Burke, "nobody wants any more money put on that Lawton service bill."

If council approves the recommendations for the fee increases, the new prices will go into effect July 1st.