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Board to revisit facility rental fees

March 11, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The controversial facility rental fee policy of the Washington County Board of Education will be compared with that of the Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown Community College, following a meeting Tuesday.

Since consistency is extremely important, a comparison of policies makes sense, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said Tuesday during a joint meeting of the Board of Education and the County Commissioners at the County Administration Building.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he agreed the policies should be looked at and compared.

On Wednesday, Board President Edward Forrest said one of the benefits of a comparison is they can check to make sure there are not any equity issues with the taxpayer-funded facilities.

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The comparison would not necessarily result in any changes to the policies, though, he said.

Beth Stull, spokeswoman for the college, said the college would not be opposed to a discussion about having a consistent policy. However, the college has little space available for rental and it is available for a decreasing amount of time as enrollment grows, she said.

The comparison discussion came during a presentation by System Chief Operating Officer William Blum about the Board of Education's August 2003 decision to revise its fee policy.

The board increased the fees for some groups and imposed fees - for the first time - to youth groups.

Representatives of some of the groups say the board decision forced them to make changes in operations and their budgets.

In response to some criticism and concerns over the fees, the Board of Education decided at its Feb. 17 meeting to invite all facility users to an informational meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education auditorium.

"We know the policy is not perfect," Blum said during Tuesday's meeting. "To charge or not to charge - that is the question."

The fees need to be charged so the system can be reimbursed for maintenance costs, he said.

During the meeting, a news release from the Board of Education was distributed. The document said a current 1997 agreement between the Board of Education and the Washington County Commissioners over facility costs is separate from the amended facilities use policy.

"The board has not considered nor acted upon changing the current agreement with the commissioners that allows the Parks and Recreation Department to use facilities at no charge," Forrest said in the written news release.

County Commissioner Doris Nipps previously has expressed concern that the system was going to cancel the agreement.

After the meeting, Forrest told Nipps there are no plans to cancel the agreement, which automatically is renewed each year. Nipps said she felt better after hearing that reassurance.

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