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Scouting groups balk at city’s facilities charge

City may consider nonprofit rate, manager says
By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald correspondent
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The use of fee-waivers for a few nonprofit groups that use city facilities will cease next year, to the dismay of Rocklin scouting groups that have been able to assemble in city buildings at no charge.

“We received a letter telling us that we have six months left to use the Community Center under our MOU agreement,” said Rosemary Doran, of Rocklin Girl Scouts, who said the new rate will be $90 per hour.

The letter, signed by Rick Forstall, director of public services, states that the changes will be effective April 1, 2013.

 “…the city will no longer be issuing the Girl Scouts fee waivers,” the letter reads. “We appreciate the time and investment you make to the community and its residents.”

Doran added that while the rate has not changed for some parties to assemble at places like the Community Center or Sunset Center, nonprofit scouts can no longer meet at no charge.

According to Doran, the monthly leader meetings for all troops average two and a half hours. Money from cookies sales will not cover the costs for the scouts to just meet.

The MOU states that it may be “terminated by either party for any reason with two weeks’ written notice delivery to the other party.”

The city has provided the scouts with up to three waivers/reductions each year for the use of facilities, depending on which facilities are being requested.

 “The Community Center is just that, a community center,” Doran said.

City Manager Rick Horst said the fees are not means to generate new revenue for the city, but rather to cover costs like utilities and maintenance. The charges are now being charged to all groups who use the buildings.

Horst said the fee policy takes into account factors such as who benefits from the service: the community in general or only the individual or group renting the facility.

“Today we have a multitude of groups desiring to use our facilities with an equal expectation that this should be provided at no cost,” he said, adding that only a few groups have used facilities over time at no cost.

The practice began “many years, if not decades ago,” when the number of community groups was low, Horst added.

“If we provide free service for some nonprofit groups, we must then provide the same level of service to any other group who might make such a request,” he said.

However, Horst said, staff is considering whether to forward a recommendation for a nonprofit rate to the City Council. That proposal, he said, will have to be balanced “against community benefit and will require some thought and analyses.”

Jeff Sherer, Cubmaster of Pack 29, an active troop in Rocklin for more than 60 years, has analyzed the situation.

“For the community service hours we donate, we expect nothing in return other than support from our community and city leaders,” he said. In evicting us from the Community Center, you are truly turning your back to scouting.”

For the past 25 years, Sherer said, the scouts have met at the 5th Street facility.

The scouts, he said, provide roughly 1,500 hours of community service to Rocklin on an annual basis. The leadership developed through scouting activities traces back to Roy Ruhkala, one of Troop 29’s scoutmasters.

“The dedication plaque on the wall in the lobby of the Community Center says the building is ‘dedicated to the community of Rocklin in honor of the veterans of American wars,’” Sherer said. “Making a buck off the scouting organizations that use the building we don’t believe was the intent of the veterans who donated the building to the city and created this plaque.”

To fight the “astronomical” rates, Sherer created a petition last Monday. Total signatures exceeded 300 in its first four days of being circulated via email.

Currently, 376 Rocklin residents have signed in support of the scouts.

The scouts were expected to present their point at this week’s City Council meeting. Those interested in seeing the petition can visit www.change.org/petitions/support-rocklin-scouting-organizations.