After nine years at a new site, lawn bowling is rolling its way out of Mitchell.
That's according to Lakeview Lawn Bowling Association President Rod Titze, who said the Mitchell City Council's approval to raise the maintenance fee for the 120-by-120-foot lawn bowling green is the primary reason for deciding to discontinue the league.
"The maintenance increase is way beyond our budget, and we will be done if the city doesn't change the fee," Titze said. "The maintenance of the green was not adequate through the years, as well."
Since 2010, the lawn bowling association has paid an annual maintenance fee of $3,500 for upkeep of the green located next to Lakeview Golf Course. But at the April 15 city council meeting, the council agreed to raise the maintenance fee to $12,688, while agreeing to cover $6,188 of the cost to help keep lawn bowling in Mitchell. That meant the lawn bowling association was responsible for paying a $6,500 annual maintenance fee, an increase of $3,000 per year over previous years.
When the lawn bowling green moved to Lakeview, the city's Golf and Cemetery Board agreed to oversee its operations. As part of the agreement, Lakeview Golf Course constructed the lawn bowling green at no charge to the lawn bowling association - at a cost of $15,000 - and provided maintenance services to the green.
Lakeview Golf Course Director Kevin Thurman said the cost of maintaining the green has steadily increased over the years, in part because of the demands from Titze and the lawn bowling association.
"Our maintenance crew puts a lot of work into maintaining the lawn bowling green, and it's not cheap to provide maintenance every year," Thurman said. "We did everything we could to help lawn bowling get going, and we tried to bring something new to Mitchell, but Rod didn't want to go through the proper protocol to get what he wanted out there."
Titze has been the driving force behind lawn bowling in Mitchell for decades. In 1993, the city removed the lawn bowling green at Hitchcock Park for additional tennis courts. Nearly 20 years later, Titze successfully lobbied the City Council to build a new green at Lakeview. In that process, Titze raised $70,000 from 800-plus donors to buy lawn bowling equipment.
Thurman said the most recent request was the lawn bowling association asking the city to construct several benches near the lawn bowling green. During the April 15 council meeting, Janis Gerlach, a local lawn bowling member, said the lawn bowling association opted not to pay last year's $3,500 maintenance fee until the benches were installed.
The agreement between the city's municipal golf course and lawn bowling association mandated the association bring any requests for additional items, such as equipment and benches, to the Golf and Cemetery Board, which would then have to be approved by the city council.
Thurman said after the city agreed to fund the construction of the lawn bowling green, the lawn bowling association was to not request any more funding from that point on, saying that the association was to fund any additional items through user fees or fundraising.
Another point of contention between the city and the lawn bowling association, Thurman said, was Titze's efforts to build a storage shed for the bowling equipment. Thurman said the building was to cost as much as $50,000, but because the building was going to be constructed on city property, it needed approval from the Golf and Cemetery Board and the City Council.
Once Thurman informed Titze about the process the building would require, he said Titze claimed the city reneged, or backed out.
"Rod said the city reneged, and we didn't renege, because a project like that has to go through the city's approval in order for it to be budgeted," Thurman said. "According to law, the money has to be put into a city account so it can be awarded through a bidding process."
The park bench dispute prompted Thurman to seek legal counsel with City Attorney Justin Johnson. After no formal written agreement between the lawn bowling association and the city for most of the last decade, Johnson suggested putting one in place.
"We didn't technically have to pay the annual $3,500 maintenance fee, and we paid this out of the goodness of our hearts," Titze said. "So this would have been the first time we would have had to pay under a written agreement."
The increased maintenance fee was suggested after Thurman conducted a lawn bowling green assessment to get a proper estimate of a maintenance fee for the green. Titze took issue with the increase, and wrote a letter to the city requesting to lower the maintenance fee after the council's decision. Johnson said the city received the letter, but opted to stand firm on their approved agreement.
All of it means Titze said he will be discontinuing the lawn bowling league, citing the maintenance fee as being too costly.
"We were trying to bring more people to the city with having our lawn bowling league, but we can't afford that maintenance fee, especially when the green looks the way it does," Titze said. "If anyone is willing to provide a green, we're open to looking into that for us to keep lawn bowling here."