City Council discusses Civic Center fees

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove city council held a lengthy discussion during its Tuesday night meeting regarding the fees associated with the Copperas Cove Civic Center. 
The discussion was requested at a prior meeting by place 4 councilman Jay Manning, who on Tuesday evening elaborated on the issues he saw with the rates.
“In 2014, the cost of renting the civic center for a day rose from $500 to $700, and the following year increased to $700,” Manning told the council. “Instead of raising revenue, this action apparently caused a decrease in revenue. As recently as 2013, the community building revenue was about $32,000 per year. In 2015, the financial report showed revenues of $23,657, a decrease of 26 percent. Last year, September 30 report showed the community building revenue at $19,187. That’s a 23 percent decrease in one year.”
Manning said that so far this year, revenues are down another 19 percent for community building rentals.
He said that in addition to “destroying our cash flow, the increased cost has prevented those who would like to use the meeting hall from doing so. We’ve invested in the civic center for the use of citizens and other interested parties that may wish to meet here. I believe we need to restore the intended use of the civic center as well as the revenue it can produce. My direction would be to return to the September 1, 2014 levels of $500.” 
One group affected by those fees was the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee. Several members of that committee attended the meeting on Tuesday evening, with Robert O’Dell, the chairman of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce’s military affairs committee, addressing the council during citizens’ forum. 
He reminded them of the history of the dinners the chamber has held for more than 50 years in Copperas Cove. The site of the dinners had been the civic center, where the committee was also able to store its grills. 
O’Dell said in 2016, the expenses were too much for the committee and the dinners ceased. Then in 2017, they were able to hold their dinners at another venue, but they could not use their grills there.
O’Dell didn’t mention anything about the civic center fees specifically, but in the past the fees and the agreement with the city were the subjects of discussion at council meetings in the summer of 2015. On Tuesday night, he did ask if the council could have one of its members join the military affairs committee, and that the committee was asking the same thing of CICISD. 
Youngs gave that particular organization as an example of what he saw as the problem with the fees.
“The only thing that organization tried to do was sell Copperas Cove. That’s all they wanted to do. And we’ve cut them off at the knees because we’ve raised the fees for the citizens,” Youngs stated. “The only thing they wanted to do was attempt to put Copperas Cove in a positive light. But what did the council do last year? Bam!” 
He said he didn’t understand how the costs had gone up, although he knew the cost of electric has gone up. 
“As a council, we owe our citizens the best quality of life that we can afford,” Youngs said.
Councilman James Pierce Jr. questioned what caused the civic center revenue level to drop, adding that the city manager has the authority to negotiate lower rates for anyone renting the facility. He said he wasn’t in favor of raising property taxes as a way to recoup lost revenue.
Councilman Dan Yancey said he hoped that lowering the cost would hopefully have the rebound effect of increasing revenue. 
Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Brown presented some annual numbers for the civic center rental, which also showed the loss of revenue numbers due to organizations that receive discounted rates. 
For 2015, it collected $17,400 in revenue, which would have been $21,000 without discounts. In 2016, that amount dropped to $14,250, which would have been $17,600 without discounts. During the last fiscal year, the civic center collected $9,400 in revenue, which would have been $14,400 without discounts. So far for this fiscal year, the civic center has been rented 24 times, with operating costs of $8,175.03 connected to those events. 
Discussion also surrounded the costs to operate the civic center, whether or not the civic center was used and how events affect those costs. 
Ultimately, the council agreed to ask for more detailed figures for the operational costs of the civic center. Councilman Marc Payne called for a breakdown of the number of rentals each fiscal year along with the utility costs, to which the rest of the council agreed. That information will be compiled by the department and brought back to the city council at a future meeting. 

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