Lewes may charge nonprofits for use of facilities

Deputy mayor: Current policy inconsistent with neighbors
Lewes City Council is considering revising a policy that would charge a fee to nonprofit organizations for to use city facilities, such as Canalfront Park. SOURCE FILE
January 27, 2014

Lewes Mayor and City Council are mulling the idea of charging nonprofit organizations that use city facilities.

Deputy Mayor Ted Becker said the policy of waiving fees for nonprofits costs the city $5,000 to $7,000 annually.

“We have an inordinate number of requests for use of our facilities, whether it's the library, the Net House or perhaps even races throughout the city throughout the year,” he said. “We've long had a policy that is inconsistent with surrounding communities.”

The topic was discussed at several finance committee meetings before being brought to mayor and council in December and January.

Under the current policy, those renting a room at the Lewes Public Library for up to four hours are charged a $35 nonrefundable fee that doubles to $70 for longer than four hours. If held outside the library's regular business hours, the person or organization is charged an additional $25.

A $50 charge accompanies any use of the city's beach, parks and pavilions or to host a race. The fee for bonfires on the beach is $25.

Becker said it would behoove the city to begin charging for use of its facilities. One organization, he said, has requested to use the library no fewer than 30 times in one year.

“I think there is some merit in considering this,” he said. “However, we also want to be cognizant of the fact that there are many 501(c)3s that are small and have limited budgets. We do not want to disqualify them from perhaps being able to meet in our facilities.”

Mayor and city council voted to table the proposal for another month so the finance committee can take another look at potential changes to the policy.

“I think there may be a need to tweak this a little bit further,” Becker said.

Becker, chairman of the finance committee, would like his committee to consider alternatives, such as a threshold of the number of requests a nonprofit makes to trigger the fees.

The finance committee will meet at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 28, to discuss the issue.