By Terry Schrimscher, For The Tribune
CLAY — The Clay City Council met Tuesday night, February 22, for the second of two scheduled monthly meetings. Although there was no official business on the agenda, City Manager Ronnie Dixon brought several issues to the floor for discussion.
The longest discussion of the evening concerned the use of city facilities for receptions, birthday parties, and other personal use events.
“I don’t know why it is important that we make the buildings available for personal use,” said Dixon. “If it were me, I would make it corporate only. [So] we’re not taking anything away from our real community, which is the HOA groups or businesses.”
Currently, the city rents buildings at Cosby Lake, the Clay Community Center, and the Clay Public Library. Space is also available at the Senior Center.
Dixon said the city loses money at the current rates due to damage, repairs, employee overtime, and other expenses like cleaning and trash removal that outweigh the income from rental fees.
“[People] put tape on the wall, and we’ve got to repaint because the tape pulled the paint off,” Dixon said. “They paid $150. It costs us $300 to repaint it.” Dixon said the city has experienced a lot of abuse and neglect of the facilities, especially from non-residents of Clay, and often spends valuable time trying to recover fees for damages.
He cited examples in neighboring cities like Trussville and Gardendale, where rooms are available for rent for much higher fees, and said both of those cities have event staff specifically to manage events for their facilities.
Mayor Charles Webster said he did not want to completely cut out public use of public facilities, but suggested rates could be increased to reduce some of the abuse.
“You still might have somebody who wants to rent it,” said Webster. “If you want to pay $750, it’s your community center.”
Councilmember Bo Johnson entered a motion to immediately increase rental rates to $500 with a $250 deposit with proof of residence in the city. The new rates will take effect on future agreements but will not impact rates for people who have already rented meeting space. The Council unanimously approved the new rates and will review the situation again in a future meeting.
Dixon also addressed rising expenses in the city and cautioned that the city’s increasing income will not go as far as they have in the past.
“When I say we’ve got $2,174,000 in the general fund, that’s good. It’s better than it ever has been,” Dixon said. “But it [doesn’t] mean we have $2 million worth of spending power as far as the spending power we had last year.”
Dixon said increases in fuel prices could get worse due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He warned prices could continue to increase for 18 months or longer and impact prices on all consumer products.
Councilmember Dean Kirkner expressed his concern that fuel prices around the country could increase as high as $6 per gallon due to world events.
The Council approved sending Mayor Webster as a voting delegate to the annual convention of the Alabama League of Municipalities. Council members Becky Johnson and Bo Johnson will serve as alternates.
In other business, the Council approved the extension of animal control contracts with the Humane Society.
The next meeting of the Clay City Council is set for March 8.