Helena discusses nonprofit use of Community Center

Published 7:33 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Members of the Helena City Council discussed possible ways to regulate the use of the city’s Community Center by nonprofit organizations after Councilwoman Leigh Hulsey said the issue could be affecting the city’s budget.

During a Jan. 23 work session, council members discussed possibly adding a refundable deposit or placing a limit on the number of times per year a nonprofit organization can use the facility to host fundraisers.

“I’m not trying to attack any organization. I just don’t want to see the city lose money,” Hulsey said. “I want to limit it so it doesn’t get out of control.”

Currently, the city does not charge nonprofits to use the facility to host fundraisers, and Helena Parks and Recreation Department employees handle most of the setup, breakdown and cleaning associated with the events, Hulsey said.

Hulsey said the number of nonprofits using the facility has increased over the past several years, and said the increase could one day limit the city’s revenue potential for renting the center out to other organizations.

“If it continues to happen in a larger and larger amount, it’s going to cut into what it means to the city as far as revenue,” Hulsey said.

Councilman Mike Jones said he is in favor of nonprofits using the facility for fundraisers, but said he would be in favor if regulating the number of hours nonprofits are allowed to use the center each year.

Mayor Mark Hall said the city should set up a criteria to define Helena-based nonprofit and civic groups, and said requiring a refundable deposit would “hold groups accountable for any damages” to the facility.

“I will work on a rough draft (of a resolution) and get it to you guys, and we will go from there” Hulsey told the council.

In other business, the council also discussed the possibility of adding a “public comment” section the end of each council meeting agenda.

The discussion came at the request of Councilman Hal Woodman, who said adding the section would give citizens a chance to comment if they were not already on the meeting agenda.

“If a citizen comes to a council meeting and they have a concern and they don’t know the proper avenues (to get on the meeting agenda), I think they should have an opportunity to do that,” Woodman said.

Hall and other council members said citizens often are given a chance to comment before the council votes on matters, and said they would not be in favor of adding a separate comment section to the end of the agenda.

“Personally, I think it could open the door where we could be here all night when we could be taking care of business,” Jones said.

Hall said his “door is always open” at City Hall, and encouraged concerned citizens to contact him or council members directly.