Lewes will impose facilities fees on nonprofit organizations – except those based within the city.
Mayor and city council voted 4-0 Feb. 10 to charge groups for using property and streets for meetings, events and charity races. Lewes-based nonprofits and organizations working under the umbrella of a Lewes-based nonprofit group will be exempt.
Council deviated slightly from the finance committee's recommendation when it ruled that all nonprofits are eligible for fees associated with the use of streets, as is the case with charity races. When it came to use of other facilities, Deputy Mayor Ted Becker said it would be appropriate to charge some nonprofits to recover the costs for heating, cooling, cleaning and other expenses.
“The committee felt strongly that it was reasonable, given that Lewes bears the expense for the maintenance of the library,” said Becker, chair of the finance committee.
The vote did not go through without objections from the public. Resident Rick Quail said he thought the fee was unnecessary based on the fact that the city would only garner a couple thousand dollars more in revenue.
“Nonprofits really suffer to raise money, and they really have to work hard,” he said. “This is a chance for people to come to our city who may not normally come in to participate in an event and see how exceptional our city is.”
Resident Mike Tyler agreed, saying all nonprofits positively impact Lewes.
“I just think nonprofits, especially 501(c)3s, provide a lot of quality of life benefits for the city,” he said. “It just disturbs me that we're going to do this for such a small amount of money we might gain.”
Under the Lewes' policy, groups renting a room at the Lewes Public Library for up to four hours are charged a $35 nonrefundable fee that doubles to $70 for events or meetings longer than four hours. If held outside the library's regular business hours, the person or organization is charged an additional $25; that fee is applicable to all groups regardless of their nonprofit status, said administrative assistant Alice Erickson, who handles reservations for city facilities.
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.
Councilman Fred Beaufait said the intent of the new policy is to not only realize some extra revenue, but also deter some organizations from canceling at the last minute.
“It's not frequent but also not infrequent that these organizations will reserve a room and then at very last minute cancel,” he said.
It denies the city the opportunity to rent the room if someone else is interested.
"Because there is no charge, they have no obligations," he said.