Our View: Nevada County supervisors move too fast on rental fees
March 15, 2019
Something funny happened on the way to the Eric Rood Administrative Center.
Rooms available for groups like local Republicans, Democrats and Greens — free for use for years — now cost hard cash.
This change, implemented Tuesday by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, will make meeting more difficult for plenty of groups. Prices vary, but organizations are looking at almost $200 for a two-hour meeting. That includes the cost of the rental and a fee for lobby security. You'll need an additional $150 for a security/cleaning deposit.
Expect to pay more if you need technology support, go past 8:30 p.m. or meet on a weekend.
The issue appeared before supervisors after the county started getting inundated for rental requests. The reason for the fees is cost recovery, officials said.
We can't fault any property owner from recovering the cost of building use. But this is too much and too fast for a facility the taxpayers funded.
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Supervisors seemingly heard public comment from representatives of organizations that use the Maidu Avenue building. It did little good. The board removed a restriction from their new policy toward political groups, meaning Republicans, Democrats and the like can still use the building. But, after much hand-wringing, supervisors went along with the staff recommendation and imposed the fees.
They should have put more thought into this.
Multiple groups have been using the government center for years. Changing the rules after an hour or two of discussion isn't satisfactory for organizations that rely, and have relied, on this publicly funded building.
What other venue options exist for groups that meet in western Nevada County? School auditoriums? The Grass Valley and Nevada City halls? We've paid for these structures, just as we've paid for the Eric Rood Administrative Center.
Some fee is expected to use any facility, even if we the people shelled out for its construction and continue to pay for its maintenance. But those fees don't need to climb into the hundreds of dollars. Not for people peaceably gathering for political or community purposes. Not in the house that we built.
There are solutions to this problem. The supervisors didn't take the time to find them. They should reconsider a hasty decision that affects many groups, some of which have met on government property for decades.
These organizations aren't swimming in money. Maybe they have an annual budget of $10,000. Maybe less. A $200-plus fee each month will quickly deplete their funds.
Supervisors should consider a different fee schedule, one that recoups some of the county's costs and doesn't cripple a group's budget. We are, after all, paying for this building and its employees through our taxes. A subsidy for renting it makes sense.
The county should think about requiring a deposit with a moderate fee. Pay for lobby security and have a healthy deposit available for any damage or misuse. Lock up the audio-visual equipment to ensure no one can access it. Not every group needs to shell out for a county IT employee.
Additionally, members of the groups that use the government building — and others bothered by this development — should call, email and write their supervisors. Let them know your thoughts on these new fees.
It's funny how politicians can change their mind once you get their ear.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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