City of Fulton councilpersons are working to codify rules about which groups may use park facilities at a free or reduced rate.
"I'd like to avoid having to bring all the requests for fee waivers to the city council," Parks and Recreation Director Clay Caswell said during Tuesday evening's Fulton City Council work session.
At one time, he said, the parks and rec director could waive fees at his or her discretion like if a well-established charity group wanted to use the pavilion at Memorial Park for a fundraiser. But at some point, the council asked he begin bringing those requests to meetings instead.
Currently, the council and parks and recreation regularly waive rental fees for groups such as CARDV, Head Start, various public schools and homeschool associations, United Way, Super Sam and civic organizations. So far in 2019, Caswell said, the city has collected $12,249 in facility rental fees, while it's waived $6,120.
The majority of the waived fees stem from the Scout Cabin at Veterans Park. Caswell said various Boy Scout troops used the cabin for 228 days of the last year, leaving a total of $4,960 in fees uncollected.
"And what do I say if a 4-H group wants to start renting the cabin?" Caswell said.
Several council members agreed Scout groups likely can't afford the $20 per weekday the Scout Cabin usually costs to rent. Though the cabin technically belongs to the city, there's a long tradition of allowing local scout troops to use it for free.
Most other groups for whom the city waives fees only reserve facilities once or twice a year.
"If you look at our prices compared to other cities, they're low," councilman Steve Moore said. "My personal opinion is — the gazebo rents for $40. Is $40 really going to take away that much from their event?"
Council members floated several possible solutions.
One is making a blanket rule that any 501(c)(3) could reserve a park facility for free. However, as councilman Rick Shiverdecker pointed out, that would include many churches — vastly expanding the number of groups eligible for fee waivers.
"On a given weekend, all the shelters in our parks could be reserved by people who don't have to pay," he said.
City Administrator Bill Johnson pointed out, in nearby Moberly, any 501(c)(3) nonprofit wishing to rent a park facility pays half price. Councilperson Ballard Simmons said that sounded like a reasonable solution, especially if the city hikes facility rental prices.
Councilman John Braun pointed out that with the rental prices already so low, the cost in time spent walking the renter through the paperwork might outweigh the fee itself.
Ultimately, the council requested the Parks and Recreation board draw up a proposal for a new blanket rule, to be presented at the next city council meeting.