Kitsap 4H to get free Fairgrounds use while county, club mull compromise

The Kitsap County 4H club received a temporary reprieve for rental of the Presidents Hall at the Fairgrounds, while both the department and the club decide on a possible compromise.

“We need to move forward and find some kind of agreement,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown. “Until we figure this out, we should go back to how it has always been.”

The imposition of fees is not arbitrary or profit-driven. Rather, it is in response to the declining income available to governments and the necessity to find new revenue streams to pay for services.

The 4H club has never paid any rental fees for county property. Current budget conditions have forced all government agencies to seek revenue sources, so the parks department last month proposed assessing a rental fee of $500 per day for each event.

While this represented 50 percent of the normal rate for non-profits, 4H members said the organization cannot afford to pay these fees.

“We’re all-volunteer,” said Susan Krawieki of Port Orchard at the Kitsap County commissioners’ meeting on Monday night. “We raise money for our own programs and clean up after ourselves. And while there are other things going on at the fair, a lot of the attendees come just to see us.”

The commissioners deferred any decision on imposing the fees until a study session on Wednesday morning.

At that point, Parks Director Jim Dunwiddie submitted a proposal that provides a per-hour estimate that includes utilities and labor.

This works out to approximately $60 for three hours.

Another suggested compromise was to continue to allow 4H to use the facilities free of charge but bump them should a paying customer emerge.

Said Brown, “If someone’s willing to pay to use the hall, then it makes sense to use our facilities to generate revenue.”

4H representatives attending the session said they had no problem with such an arrangement and could reschedule their events at the last minute in favor of a paying customer.

Addressing Dunwiddie, South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said the commissioners need an accurate breakdown of operational costs of the hall as compared to the benefits resulting from volunteer labor.

The matter is scheduled to be addressed at the March 3 study session.

During that meeting, Dunwiddie will submit those figures and 4H member Kelly Fisk will also gather data that quantifies the value of all the volunteer labor provided by 4H members and their families.

“When we use a facility, we power wash and even paint,” Krawieki said. “We spend a lot of time cleaning up and managing the area, providing free labor that would cost the county quite a bit to accomplish.”

While 4H members were happy with the commissioners’ decision — or lack thereof — they will be satisfied with no less than a reinstatement of the free-use policy.

In the future they’re hoping to document the value of their volunteer efforts, proving that it exceeds the amount of any usage fees.

“If they make us pay to use the buildings, I don’t know where the money will come from,” Fisk said. “We’ve already raised our dues recently, and they can’t go much higher.”

Supporters of 4H hope the commissioners can afford to make this investment, which they are sure will pay off.

“If there was no 4H, things would be very different for me,” Michael VanDoer said at Monday night’s meeting. “I’d probably be a guest of the county, in the jail across the street. Today, a lot of kids are in the same situation.”

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