Committee forms in response to flap over facilities fee

Scouts, media descend on City Council
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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With cameras rolling from three Sacramento television stations, through a standing-room-only crowd the Rocklin City Council heard from citizens upset by a proposal that would start charging nonprofit groups for using city facilities.

Rocklin Boy Scout Troop 29, which has used the Community Center free of charge since it opened in 1976, received a letter from the city explaining the need to charge starting in April 2013.

“As the city continues to grow, we are receiving more and more applications for the use of the city facilities from various community/

nonprofit organizations requesting that rental fees be waived,” it reads in part.

“They can’t substantiate it,” Rocklin Lions Club President Victor Tulbure said. Tulbure’s group did not receive a letter from the city, but helps sponsor a BSA troop. 

“They are taking every city facility and turning it into a cash cow,” he told the council. “They are looking for revenue. I don’t think that’s what service is about. The city government is to serve the public.”

Rocklin Girl Scout Becky Chisholm told the council the new charges could be crippling to her group.

“We sell cookies and we only get 40 cents a box,” she said. “If we have to pay for the buildings, then how can we help the community if we can’t support what we’re doing?”

Girl Scout leader Rosemary Doran organized a citizens petition with more than 600 signatures.

“We’re begging you to honor the agreement we’ve had all these years,” she told the council. “Scouts do a lot for the community.”

Rocklin Boy Scout/Cub Pack leader Jeff Sherer told the council the new fee could be devastating.

“No one can tell us any special rate,” he said. “What is posted is $90 per hour with a three-hour minimum, which is not something the scouts can afford.”

At that rate, the weekly meetings could cost the troop $14,040 a year.

“Honestly, charging us any more than a nominal fee is like kicking us out of the Community Center altogether,” Sherer said.

Mayor Brett Storey defended the fee proposal during the meeting.

“When our available in-come was not as great as it was, we asked our city manager and our staff to look at everything we possibly have and look at ways to do business in a more efficient manner,” he said. “We have lots of things to pay for.”

City Manager Rick Horst said in an interview before the meeting that the fees are not means to generate new revenue for the city, but rather to cover costs like utilities and maintenance. Several entities that do generate revenue for the city are not charged for their utilities use, according to their contracts.

In March, the city signed a multi-year contract with Final 9 Sports to house a disc golf store at the Parks and Recreation building in Johnson-Springview Park. The city gets a cut of the sales revenue. According to Horst, from March to October the shop raised nearly $8,461 in new revenue for the city. The shop owners pay $900 per month rent but also get free utilities paid by the city.

Co-owner Bruce Knisley told the Herald in March it was “fair” for the city to pay for the utilities.

For comparison, Troop 29 would pay $3,200 more a year for a weekly meeting space than the shop would pay for a whole year of daily use.

In another example, the city renewed its multi-year lease with the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce for the use of the train station. Right now the chamber pays the city $845 a month with the city picking up the tab for “electricity, natural gas, sewer service, water and waste and refuse collection,” according to the contract. The city previously charged the chamber $1 for rent, but revised the contract last year.

Horst indicated staff may try to develop a new rate for nonprofits. At the council meeting, Storey announced plans to form an ad-hoc committee to study the nonprofit rental rate situation before the measure is returned to the full City Council for a vote.

Tulbure was not impressed with news of the new committee.

“They’ve already made up their minds,” he said. “They just want to appear like they’re accommodating.”