Council discusses Civic Center fee hike

Laurie Hall swears in new Demopolis city councilman Nathan Hardy.

Laurie Hall swears in new Demopolis city councilman Nathan Hardy.

Organizations wishing to rent the Demopolis Civic Center may soon pay more for the privilege, based on City Council discussion at Thursday night’s meeting at Rooster Hall.

Public Works Director Mike Baker told the council that annual repair and maintenance costs on the facility run about four times the amount of revenue produced, and that upkeep is costing more each year as the facility ages.

Mayor Mike Grayson said he does not envision raising fees to a level that would cover all costs. “We can’t price ourselves out of business,” he said, but added that some increase is needed to help defray the costs. He said informal discussions from his office have produced figures for the council’s consideration, including increasing the fee for social events from $250 to $500, for commercial events from $325 to $600, and adding a fee of $250 for non-profit organizations if food will be served. When food will not be served, a non-profit could rent the facility for $100. A $75 set-up fee would also apply if city personnel were needed to assist.

The city last increased Civic Center rental fees in 1999, according to the mayor.

Council member Charles Jones Jr. said the increased fees are merely a “band aid” and that a long-term renovation to the civic center is needed. Grayson voiced agreement with Jones’ statement.

“The facility is not decrepit. We’re not going to turn Mr. (Bill) Poole loose on it any time soon,” Grayson said to chuckles from the audience, referring to Attorney Poole’s earlier report to the council regarding two dilapidated structures in the city.

Regarding those structures, Poole had recommended that the council declare the property at 801 Second Avenue a nuisance and authorize the city to seek bids for demolition of that structure as well as a building at 1814 A Street. Poole said there had been some resistance to destroying the house on Second Avenue. He said Grace Motley had talked with him in the past about what she termed the “historical significance” of the house. According to Poole, Ms. Motley believes the house to be the first home in Demopolis owned by an African American female. Poole said, however, that there has been no improvement to the structure despite his repeated efforts to get something done.

Jones said Motley approached him asking for more time – until April 7 – to begin renovation of the house. Jones pointed out that the city could proceed with obtaining bids, but that no actual demolition would take place prior to April 7, anyway. The council unanimously approved Poole’s recommendations on both properties.

In other action, the council appointed Arthur Evans to fill the unexpired term of Joe Bailey on the Parks and Recreation Board. Bailey is no longer able to serve due to working shift work. The council also took no nominations on a vacant alternate Board of Adjustment seat, which was vacated by Nathan Hardy, who was sworn in as the District 2 City Council representative at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting.

Hardy was selected to fill the unexpired council term of Mitchell Congress, who resigned for health reasons.