McMinnville rejected a freebie request from Warren County High School’s Future Farmers of America for use of the Civic Center for a fundraiser, opting instead for a discount.
During Tuesday night’s Parks and Recreation Committee, FFA members asked Aldermen Ben Newman and Rick Barnes for use of the facility for free or at a reduced rate. Alderman Billy Wood was absent.
“There is a student in our FFA program,” said FFA member Martin Grissom. “His name is Spencer Hill. He has Down syndrome. He is very active in the program. He plays sports. He never forgets anyone’s name. If he meets you once, he is a friend for life.”
Spencer, 15, was recently diagnosed with leukemia and is receiving treatment at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
“This has been a hard time on him and his family, both physically and financially,” said Martin. “We put together a program to have a fundraiser for him to help his family pay medical bills or anything else they might need. We asked to use the Civic Center. As part of the community, we are trying to give back to the community. He means a lot to us and to a lot of people.”
The fundraiser could last approximately six hours and that would include the time needed for setup before the event and cleanup afterwards.
Rental of the facility for an event such as the one proposed would be $85 per hour for a minimum of five hours, a total of $510. The rental fee does not include added fees for Civic Center staff setting up for the event and cleaning up after it, or the fee for chair rental.
The city’s fee does not include liability insurance, an additional $300 charge, or what the organization will have to pay for off-duty police officers to patrol the event. Policing a large event is $25 per hour for three officers.
McMinnville Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord says he has concerns on allowing use for free.
“I’ll do whatever the committee and board directs me to do,” said McCord. “My only concern is we will open up the precedence for anyone who comes to us with a fundraiser that we have to reduce our rates or give them free use of the facility.”
McCord suggested waiving the fees for setup and cleanup (if the club performed the work), chair rental and lowering the hourly fee to $65 an hour, which is the fee charged to community service organizations.
Alderman Ken Smith, who is not on the committee and admitted his daughter-in-law has a connection with FFA, urged members to consider a freebie.
“I agree with you Scott that you are opening yourself up to anyone who wants to use the facility to raise money,” Smith said. “Then, I look at the reason for the fundraiser. Sometimes we forget we represent the people who are sick, as well as those who are healthy. Here we have a young child. I just wonder where our hearts are. Sometimes our hearts and our brains should go together. I don’t see why we can’t waive the rental fee.”
Smith reminded the committee the city recently gave the Warren County Chamber of Commerce use of the Civic Center for free for its annual banquet, a money-making event for the organization.
Newman added, “The Chamber is an organization we work with. It’s somewhat of a symbiotic relationship. We have a budget that we set for them. When we approved it for them, it was because we cut their budget this year. I think giving it to FFA for free would be great. However, if we do it for FFA, we have to do it for everybody who wants to hold a fundraiser.”
Alderman Jimmy Bonner suggested the city set a lower fee for fundraisers that benefit individuals within the community who are suffering from an illness. However, he made no suggestion regarding what that charge would be.
Barnes suggested the city “set a percentage not to exceed so much. Like 10 percent. If they raise $500, it would be $50.” However, he made no suggestion regarding what the maximum charge would be.
Newman motioned that the city lower the charge to $65 per hour and waive all the other fees — not including the insurance requirement. Barnes accepted the motion.
The event will be held May 12, if members of FFA can generate the rental fee of $65 per hour ($325 for five hours), the $300 needed for liability insurance, and the cost for policing the event.