On Oct. 1, the Recreation Department doubled the rates for tennis fees, causing outrage from residents. The Town Council reversed the decision at the Oct. 10 meeting until a new proposal could be presented this month.

The hike in fees at Phipps Ocean Park and Seaview Park tennis centers is expected to be a hotly debated topic at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting where the Recreation Department plans to present a new pricing proposal.

Director of Business and Operations Carolyn Stone told the Recreation Advisory Commission on Wednesday that the tennis fees had been "artificially low" for way too long. "Every year it costs more to run," Stone said. "No business anywhere keeps the same prices as last year."

Protests from residents forced the Town Council at the Oct. 10 meeting to reverse the sharp increases in tennis court fees at Phipps Ocean Park and Seaview Park that had taken effect on Oct. 1.

The increase had meant the 90-minute rate for adult residents of $9.50, would have jumped to $15, and the annual passes from $419.50 to $594.

For non-residents, the annual passes would have jumped from $660 to $1,998.

Stone will present a plan to town council that makes a justification for the hike in fees. She said the tennis facilities in town are "exceptional," and that it costs money to keep them that way.

"Our goal is to have a 60% recovery for costs. We only sold 44 annual passes in the 2018 fiscal year, and we have no numbers yet for 2019," Stone told the Daily News.

"Residents’ rates did increase but at a smaller percentage than non-residents, and there are options we can consider regarding seasonal residents," she said.

Committee member Pamela McIver said that it was difficult to support the fees when the Recreation Advisory Commission was never involved in the decision. Committee Chair Nicholas Coniglio, said that ultimately town council would have the final say on the fees debate. "How they respond to that is another story," he said.

The increase for tennis court fees came as a result of the 2019-2020 budget approved by Town Council in July. A resolution amending recreation department fees for fiscal year 2020 included an increase in fees for the fitness center, gymnasium and tennis fees "when necessary, to maximize revenue during underused periods."

Resident Beth Cole told the commission that no one had touched on the issue of how the tennis fee increase would affect junior participation. The current daily court fees are $10 for junior residents $15 for non-residents.

"I think you’re pricing juniors out," said Cole. "The prices are out of line, not only compared to other towns but also to other alternatives that kids have to do in the afternoons."

Former Palm Beach Mayor and avid tennis player Jack McDonald said that fees cannot be set based on cost recovery. "We have to be competitive with our competition," he said.

McDonald also said the town council needed the input of the Recreation Advisory Commission to make an informed decision. "You’re the commission that looks at the rec center and recreation," McDonald said. "I would encourage you to show up Tuesday and provide that input, because who else are they going to rely on?"