Early in his administration, Columbus Mayor Keith Gaskin said he would like the city to adopt a policy on providing organizations with free use of city facilities, most notably the Trotter Center.
It’s not the first time city leaders have expressed a desire to have a policy they could use when requests for free or discounted use of those facilities.
During Thursday’s city council work session, Gaskin said he’d like the council to adopt a policy at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“I keep getting calls from groups about using facilities for free, especially the Trotter Center,” Gaskin said. “I know in the past there has been some discussions by the council about who should be able to use the Trotter. In one of our meetings, we looked at the list of organizations who we donated (use of the Trotter Center) to. One of the terms was that we could only provide free use if the organization was a city partner, an organization the city helps fund. But there are a lot of groups that aren’t funded by the city who come to us with events that benefit the city and our residents. They come and make their case to me, but there’s no policy in place to use as guidance. I’d really like to see us address this at our next meeting.”
The mayor said there is sometimes a natural conflict between supporting organizations whose events benefit the city and fiscal responsibility.
“Although the city would love to be partners with folks…there is an expense for upkeep that needs to be considered. We might want to maybe consider a discounted fee for nonprofits that could be adjusted based on the size of the event. My concern is while we want to be supportive, there is a lot of wear and tear and deferred maintenance on the building. We need to get an idea of what those expenses are.”
Ward 3 councilman Rusty Greene said the city should have an estimate developed to determine those costs.
“We ought to have some idea of what the costs are,” Greene said. “Every time we open the doors, there are costs. We need to have some idea of how much those costs really are. We don’t want to lose money.”
Turnage said interim COO Mark Alexander Jr. suggested a flat fee that would apply to non-profit organizations for use of the Trotter.
“It would be a minimal fee,” Turnage said. “That would solve a lot of problems, I think.”
“It’s not an easy call,” Gaskin said. “But I think it’s time we adopted a policy to address this.”
After the city’s hiring committee on Tuesday interviewed two finalists for the COO position, Gaskin said Thursday he would like the council to consider altering the job descriptions and pay rates for both the COO position and the CFO position, which are currently being filled on an interim basis.
Early in his administration, Gaskin proposed the two positions be combined, but the council voted to fill both positions.
“We looked seriously at two (COO) candidates,” Gaskin said. “One of the candidates has the potential to fill both the COO and CFO positions while the other would be qualified for just the COO job. Because of the strengths in different areas, I’d like the council to consider adjusting the job descriptions and salary range of those positions. I know the council decided to go ahead and keep those positions (separate), but at the time the council stated if we needed to make adjustments, we could do that. I want to see if anyone has any issues with that.”
Greene, who is a member of the hiring committee, said he was open to the idea.
“We have some qualified applicants,” Greene said “Hopefully we can make it work. I think both candidates would be an asset to the city.”
Ward 6 councilman Jacqueline DiCicco, who is also on the hiring committee, said she was not opposed to making the adjustments.
“The bottom line for me is to do whatever it takes to make sure we get the right person for the job,” she said.
Councilmen Pierre Beard, Joseph Mickens, Esther Taylor Stewart and Stephen Jones were not present at Thursday’s work session. The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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