City revisits Boathouse rental fees, discusses insurance requirement for events
Belfast — City councilors discussed at length how to address Boathouse rental fees for non profit and for profit groups Tuesday, Oct. 15.
During discussions about the fiscal year 2013-2014 city budget, councilors looked at areas where they could increase revenue, and one of the areas identified was in the rates charged for renting the Boathouse.
Councilors ultimately approved increasing rental fees, which would result in the city receiving about $20,000 in additional revenue.
Because the increased rates could place a financial burden on a number of non profit groups that have used the facility for events in past years, the city encouraged those groups to submit a letter to the city asking for an exemption from the new rates.
Recently, the Friends of Belfast Parks submitted a letter to the city requesting the weekend fee rental for the Boathouse be waived and the organization be allowed to pay the $100 fee it has paid in past years to host the annual Maine Weinerfest event.
Under the revised fee schedule, renting the Boathouse for a weekend costs $1,600 — a price that eclipses the profits brought in from the Maine Weinerfest event, the Friends of Belfast Parks state in the letter to the city.
City Manager Joseph Slocum explained to councilors that he isn't opposed to reducing the rental fees for the non profit groups that have used the Boathouse in the past, but asked for direction from councilors on whether groups should submit a letter to the council requesting a fee waiver or if the fees should be held steady for a year.
Councilor Mike Hurley said he has received a number of complaints regarding the fees and needing to provide insurance for an event. While he acknowledged that the fee increases were implemented as a way to increase revenue, he noted the Boathouse was given as a gift to the city by MBNA and that by trying to “maximize every nickel,” the city is not keeping with the spirit of the gift.
“I think we went overboard on the price increases,” Hurley said.
Hurley continued by saying he would welcome an opportunity to review the fees.
Councilor Eric Sanders agreed that some of the non profit groups may not be able to pay the rental fee, but officials needed to decide how the fees would be assessed.
“We just need to make a decision and live with it,” Sanders said.
Slocum said he would send out notices to non profit groups that have used the Boathouse in the past at a reduced rate that the city would hold their rates flat for at least a year.
In addition to addressing the fee schedule at the Boathouse, councilors also talked about insurance for events at the facility. Slocum explained that the city's insurance provider recommended Belfast require the renter provide insurance that covers the event and the city.
Mayor Walter Ash Jr., asked if there was a way the city could provide insurance to renters of the Boathouse. Slocum said it is an option, but having the renter provide their own insurance helps the city keep its insurance premiums lower.
Councilor Mary Mortier suggested establishing a threshold for what type of event would require insurance. She said that such a threshold could establish a low risk event, such a meeting, versus a higher risk event where food or alcohol are served, or if a bounce house is set up.
Slocum said he would return to the council during their next meeting on November 6 with a potential proposal for how to address event insurance at the Boathouse.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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