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City to let Chamber use Civic Center for free
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A request to use McMinnville Civic Center free of charge for an upcoming event has at least one city official questioning the board’s willingness to give freebies.
“I don’t think we need to start out this year by letting people use it free of charge,” said Alderman Jimmy Bonner during Tuesday night’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. “At least let them pay something. Then people won’t come up here saying ‘You let so and so use it free of charge, so let us use it free of charge.’”
Prompting the statement was a request from Warren County Chamber of Commerce president Mandy Eller, who asked to use the Civic Center at no charge for the Chamber’s annual banquet Jan. 26. On the committee with Bonner are Aldermen Ben Newman and Everett Brock.
In 2014, officials allowed use of the facility for the Chamber’s annual event. At that time, the Chamber asked officials for a reduction on the $900 charge. Even though the Chamber was satisfied with paying approximately $500, the committee voted to cut the cost to zero. The organization provided the city a table at the banquet, which had a $300 value.
Giving last year’s freebie was Newman and former aldermen Rick Barnes and Billy Wood. Wood made the recommendation, which passed unanimously.
Wood said he thought free use of the Civic Center was justified because the city had cut its donation to the Chamber by $19,000. Newman began this year’s discussion by stating his desire to follow in last year’s footsteps.
“The Chamber works with the city on a lot of different projects,” said Newman. “I would like to do the same thing this year that we did last year. I would like to give it to them at no cost.”
“Last year, they gave us a table. Is that part of the deal this year?” asked Brock. 
Eller stated, “It can be. Yes.”
Bonner voiced his opposition because officials have, in the past, asked McMinnville Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord to increase revenue due to expenses being larger than profits.
“I think everyone that comes up here should have to pay something,” said Bonner. “Scott has been told during meetings to raise revenue. Well, the man can’t do it if you are going to give away stuff free of charge. The $500 sounds reasonable. Maybe that’s what we should charge everybody.”
Brock was somewhat in agreement with both sides.
“I am in agreement with Jimmy that we can’t give away everything, but I think there is a special relationship between the Chamber and the city,” said Brock. “I would like to make a motion that as long as we have a $300 table at the banquet, without meaning that we would do it every year, that we allow the Chamber to use the facility free of charge for its banquet. I agree with you, Jimmy. I don’t think we should do it for everybody who walks up here, but there’s a good rationale for working with the Chamber.”
The measure passed 2-1 with Brock and Newman voting in favor of it and Bonner voting against it. The decision means the Chamber gets free use of the Civic Center as this measure does not have to go before the full city board.