A few months ago, Attorney Joe Matika, the Summit Hill borough's solicitor, drew up an agreement for using the newly constructed Summit Hill Community Center.
The main thing put into that agreement is that organizations would have to pay $25 per hour to use it. This would help pay for electricity, heating and air conditioning, maintenance, and other costs.
Also, all groups, organizations, or individuals applying to use the building would have to get approval by the Summit Hill Borough Council.
These rules weren't given a chance. Already the council has decided that it wants to make some changes.
There's consideration being given to allowing small groups - not necessarily registered non-profit groups - to use the building free of charge.
Also, a committee might be formed to approve use of the facilities, instead of requiring full council approval. This wouldn't be so bad considering the council generally meets just once a month.
The problem is that the use of the center shouldn't be such a complex issue. The council should take the controversies one at a time and address them.
If they want to change the rules they adopted, maybe they should first get samples of operating policies from other communities such as Lehighton, Tamaqua, and Jim Thorpe, who have experience in running such a facility.
Some council members have opined that since taxpayer dollars are paying for the building, that borough residents should be allowed to use it for free. The problem is, the building isn't paid-off. Taxpayers will be paying for this building for years and years, and therefore the borough should be compensated when the building is used - even by small groups.
The only exception should be borough-run or non-profit youth organizations. Girl Scouts, the Recreation Commission, the Diligence Fire Company, and Summit Hill youth baseball teams are examples where a usage fee shouldn't be levied.
The borough council should establish a separate account for the Community Center and treat it as a budgeted item just like it would any other borough building. This is a logical record-keeping procedure. It will tell the borough if expenses are being met by fees charged or if the building becomes a financial burden.
It's also been stated that operating the Community Center is a work in progress. Maybe so, but the rules can't be changed over and over and over again. There are printing costs, legal fees, and the confusion that evolves if rules are changed too frequently.
The borough council should review the rules governing the Community Center. These rules and proposed changes shuld be debated at a public meeting.
We don't argue that this is a facility to be used by the community. But there must be charges for bridal showers, class reunions, banquets, etc. or the borough won't be able to afford to keep it functioning.
Any money raised will help to pay back the loan that had to be taken to build the structure.
By RON GOWER