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Room for two (hours)

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty Parks and Recreation staff and commission members offered a compromise regarding room rental policies, and the council finally accepted.
At the meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 26, council members considered one more policy designed to ease demands for meeting rooms during peak times at the at the North Liberty Community Center. The center sees such high demand during the hours of 4 to 9 p.m. each Monday through Thursday that space was increasingly at a premium. The Parks and Recreation Commission and Community Center staff have worked together since January to resolve the crunch, bringing three drafts to the council with suggestions ranging from charging non-profit groups half the regular room rental rate to limiting their free usage during the peak hours.
Some council members resisted the changes in response to concerns of non-profit groups who use the center on a regular basis.
The recent revision provides non-profit groups two hours per month of room use without fees during the peak times, rather than the four hours they have had in the past. Beyond their two free hours, non-profit groups would be charged half the regular rate, or between $5 and $10 per hour, depending on the size of the room.
Recreation Director Shelly Simpson told the council this would apply during the prime hours only; non-profit organizations could pursue meeting at non-peak times at no cost and would likely be accommodated.
Council member Jim Wozniak asked for reassurance there would still be meeting space available.
“Nothing has changed, program-wise,” Simpson said. “We haven’t added any programs, so there should be space. But it will be (reserved) on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Simpson said about eight non-profit groups have consistently requested more than two hours of meeting time per month.
Council member Gerry Kuhl was satisfied with the change.
“I think this is a good compromise, and one I can support,” Kuhl said, adding that that he would like to stipulate the policy be reviewed June 2009.
“I would like to see how the policy is working, and how the room usage is working,” Kuhl said.
Operable dividers for the Gerdin Conference Center, estimated to total around $220,000, are currently being designed to help alleviate space issues by creating six rooms within one. The dividers are expected to be installed sometime in February 2009, Simpson said.
“If the conference center dividers are available sooner, it (the policy) may come up again before then,” she added.