Nonprofits reconsidering Copperas Cove Civic Center as location for events
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove Civic Center is the largest venue available for event rental in the city of Copperas Cove, and an ordinance approved this spring by the Copperas Cove City Council which was intended to help increase revenue appears to have had the opposite effect.
Nonprofit groups are starting to look elsewhere to hold their events, after the city council removed the option of receiving any discounts for rentals.
At a recent meeting of the Greater Copperas Cove Community Action Network, two nonprofit representatives talked about the fact that the city has eliminated nonprofit discounts and at least one group’s leader has reconsidered using the Civic Center and instead is holding the event in Killeen.
Joann Courtland, director of Operation Stand Down Central Texas, needed to relocate her stand downs for homeless veterans from its usual location, the armory in Killeen. Courtland, a Covite, wanted to hold it at the Copperas Cove Civic Center, but she was able to rent the Killeen Community Center for a less expensive rate.
Another nonprofit, the Refuge Corporation, usually holds a community Thanksgiving basket distribution on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at the Civic Center. This year, with no discount available and facing a $500 fee for one day, Joseph Solomon, Refuge Corporation’s director, said they might have to find another location. He commented at a recent meeting of nonprofits that $500 would be able to purchase more food for baskets Thanksgiving. In the past, the group has been able to use the civic center at no cost to distribute hundreds of free Thanksgiving baskets to Copperas Cove families.
The rental rate changes were first discussed back in March, when place 4 councilman Jay Manning requested that the council discuss fees associated with renting the Civic Center, particularly for nonprofit groups. He said an increase in rental rates after 2014 caused an issue, 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.” He believed at that time it would be better to return to the 2014 daily rental rate of $500.
Representatives of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee were present during those meetings and said the costs for holding their banquets were too pricey to continue the dinners at the civic center. Since resuming their banquets, the committee has held its banquets at the Holy Family Catholic Church social hall. Councilman Charlie Youngs took the prior council to task for raising rates which “cut (the military affairs committee) off at the knees because we’ve raised the fees for the citizens.”
Also during those March discussions, interim city manager Ryan Haverlah said the council should look at the discount policy, that if the fee is reduced, everyone should pay the full rate without a discount. The council directed the full-day rental rate be lowered to $500 and remove option of a discount. At that time, it was discussed that the option of any discount would be left up to the council.
“If there is a public purpose or special situation involved, then that would come back to us anyway,” Yancey said at that time, hoping that lowering the cost would cause rebound effect on revenue. Councilman James Pierce Jr. called the recommendation a “win” for the city and a good compromise.
Fast forward nearly six months since the ordnance was approved on April 3 and an expected increase in revenue has not occurred.
According to rental numbers provided by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, the city has collected only $5,780 in rental fees from Feb. 28 through September 15 of this year. From October 2017 through February 2018, the civic center was rented eight times, with four of those rentals discounted, bringing in a total of $3,600. The total of $9,380 is less than the $9,400 collected during the prior fiscal year.
The Civic Center has been rented 23 times from April 3 through September 18, said Joe Brown, Parks & Recreation Director. Out of those 23 rentals, 15 were free rentals or received a discount, with majority of the rentals being with the Copperas Cove Independent School District, which has an agreement with the city that waives rental fees in exchange for the city using some district facilities for events at no cost.
For 2014-2015, the civic center collected $17,400 in rental revenue, which would have been $21,000 without discounts. In 2015-2016, the rental revenue dropped to $14,250, which would have been $17,600 without discounts. During fiscal year 2016-2017, the civic center collected $9,400 in revenue, which would have been $14,400 without discounts.
When asked for a response on the lack of revenue for the civic center, place 2 councilman James Pierce Jr. said he thinks the council should revisit the idea of increasing the rental rates, but reinstating discounts for nonprofits.