Rental fee demand ruffles BCC feathers

By Kile Brewer
Posted 3/14/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although county commissioners took no action, one issue of discussion drew a lot of passionate comments at this week’s regular meeting.

For months, the county has been …

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Rental fee demand ruffles BCC feathers


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although county commissioners took no action, one issue of discussion drew a lot of passionate comments at this week’s regular meeting.

For months, the county has been planning to hold its Second Annual Veterans Appreciation Day event on April 14 at the Thrasher Horne Center. However, the issue drew fire from commissioners when county Purchasing Director Karen Thomas came before the board March 13 with a request for immediate payment from the Thrasher Horne.

Thomas said the Center requires a deposit within 30 days of the event and since it is within 30 days of April 14, officials there are now asking for advance payment, which is the Center’s penalty for not getting the deposit paid in a month.

The total cost, which would be the sum of this advance payment, hovers at just over $8,000 despite the county’s usual free pass for use of the facility.

Each year the county pays St. Johns River State College $125,000 out of the county’s Tourism Development Council hotel-motel tax funds. Included in that agreement is the understanding that the county can use the THC Conference Center for county events and various awards ceremonies.

County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos said that this event is slightly different than previous freebies the county has received in that this time they are using more of the Thrasher Horne Center, including the main performance stage area.

“I understand we need to pay custodial and those other things because we are using the whole facility,” she said. “The only thing we should be paying for is the main stage, not conference center.”

Kopelousos said she would try to set a meeting with representatives from the college as soon as possible to renegotiate the contract for the event, as well as inquiring why they were pushing for advance payment for an event hosted by the county government.

Members of the commission were not happy with the request. Commissioner Gayward Hendry spoke first on the unexpectedly high price tag for the rental.

“The problem I have with that is the cost, especially with the nature of the event,” he said. “For that kind of money, I’d just as soon have it at Spring Park for four or five hundred dollars, or any other vacant field where there’s some shade. I’ll support this but I think that’s way out of line as far as expenditure of county money.”

Commissioner Mike Cella also spoke against the suggestion that the county should have to submit an advance payment for a rental they have received at a much steeper discount in the past.

“I have a problem with being told by Thrasher Horne that we have to pay in full, it’s not like we’re going to pick up and move out of the county and they won’t be able to find us,” he said. “I think even asking for the check is a stone’s throw too far at this point for this particular board.”

When it was his time to speak, Chair Gavin Rollins introduced the idea of taking the sum of the rental out of the Tourist Development Council money that will be given to SJRSC in next year’s budget, as well as rethinking their agreement with the college entirely.

“I view this as kind of a slap in the face honestly, they’re trying to nickel and dime us on a veterans event and we already give them $125,000 a year in TDC funding,” Rollins said.

Commissioner Wayne Bolla immediately spoke up in favor of the idea. Bolla decided to take Rollins’ idea a step further and move forward with a formal proposal to pay the advance but remember the amount when doling out tourism money next year.

“I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water here, we want the event to be a stellar event, we want it to come off, but I also support Commissioner Rollins’ suggestion that if they charge us the $8,000, we subtract it off their money for next year,” he said. “I think that’s a good measured response to this and I’ll put that in the form of a motion.”

Before he could even finish the sentence, the motion was seconded by Hendry and Rollins announced the motion and second before Cella spoke up.

“Before we vote, discussion would be a good thing for a cooling off period,” Cella said. “We do have a contractual agreement with the Thrasher Horne Center that says we have to pay them that, so you can’t not do that.”

After brief discussion the commission decided to table discussion on the topic until Kopelousos could renegotiate the amount for the rental with the college, only paying what she feels would be fair considering the TDC contract and past usage of the facility. However, the commission was able to determine that the contract that requires them to pay the $125,000 expires this year which would allow the BCC to rethink that number when they begin planning the next year’s budget.

“How convenient,” Rollins said.

The commission’s next meeting is March 27.


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