The City of Toledo has determined they would not be allowed to offer special rates to military veterans for use of Kemp Olson Memorial Park after a proposal to do so had been put before the City Council last month.
Though their intent was to both show gratitude toward service members and encourage use of park facilities, City Clerk Michele Whitten reported during the council’s July 7 meeting she had researched the topic and found veterans in general are not among the categories of individuals the city is allowed to offer discounts to.
“What I did was I contact MRSC, which is Municipal Research Service Center,” she said. “Their answer basically was that it would be a gift of public funds, unless we could prove that they [veterans] were low-income or handicapped or some other ruling, then you could offer discounted rates.”
Municipalities in general are banned by the State Constitution from giving public resources, even in the form of discounted rates for public products and services, though certain exemptions exist based on income, age, disability and non-profit status, among other factors.
While it was established a special rate for veterans would not be available, Council Member Nate Cook expressed concern regarding a discounted rate previously extended to construction workers currently building the city’s new sewer plant.
On April 21, the council had approved issuing a variance to workers wishing to live in the park on an extended basis during construction at a rate lower than normal for regular park use. At the time, Mayor Jerry Pratt said such a variance was part of the ordinance regulating park use, and the need for some workers to find long-term, local housing presented a special circumstance.
“It’s the same kind of discount, in my opinion,” said Cook, with Whitten stating she would contact MRSC to confirm the legality of the April 21 decision.
The city is still expected to reach out to local businesses and ask if they may be able to offer discounts on their products and services to general park guests as a way of bolstering park use, with Council Member James Fluckinger having been in contact with business owners in that regard.