By Melanie Williamson
Athletic director Andrew Stillman was at the Monday, October 30, special board meeting to discuss the use of facilities by outside groups. He started by explaining that when he joined the district four years ago, there was no strict policy to charge groups for the use of school facilities. It was the opening of the field house that started the conversation. Stillman went on to say it was his position that the district should donate the rental fee for Vermilion local groups for youth sports such as the YMCA and the city rec department. He explained that he saw it as an investment in the kids, and the more often they can get kids in the facilities, the more they will identify with Vermilion.
Stillman stated that his approach worked for a while, but then it was changed to charging $50 per hour for facility use for all groups. On weekends, it was the $50 per hour fee plus an additional $35 per hour on Saturdays and an extra $45 per hour on Sundays to cover all overtime expenses paid by the district to the school employees needed to keep the facilities open. Stillman explained that charging $85 to $95 an hour on weekends makes it cost prohibitive for many groups.
A representative from the YMCA has attended a previous meeting asking the district to reduce the amount charged for facility use, and Stillman stated that he had a meeting with mayor Bulan and Chad Kuhns, from the rec department, and they also asked if the district could reduce their prices. Stillman went on to say that both organizations understand there are costs involved for the district, and they are not opposed to paying something.
Board member Mike Stark asked if it costs the district extra to have groups using the facilities during the week. Stillman responded that it doesn’t cost anything extra during the week because the custodians are already in the building and the utilities are already in regular use. He went on to say the additional cost to the district is only on the weekends with both employee overtime and extra utility costs.
Board president Shelly Innes asked what the additional utility costs were. Stillman responded that from what has been tracked by the operations department, it is between $11 and $15 extra in utilities per hour. Board vice president Chris Habermehl stated, “so if we offered the facilities for free Monday through Friday and charged a fee around $50 per hour on weekends to cover overtime and utilities, the district wouldn’t be losing money.” Habermehl then asked about the insurance for these groups. Stillman asserted that all groups regardless of what they are paying are required to fill out a facility use agreement and provide proof of insurance.
Innes asked if there were noticeable signs of wear and tear and if the groups using the facilities were being respectful. Stillman responded that they had a few issues with groups using the gym in the elementary school, but they have been addressed and are no longer an issue. He went on to say that VES is the only building that does not have a direct entrance to the gym, so they are working on a practical, low-cost way to block off other areas of the school.
Innes asked if there was a security issue with outside groups using the facilities. Stillman responded that he didn’t think there was. He added that there are always employees in the building while outside groups are there, and all of the groups using the facilities have adults, so there are never kids in the buildings after hours on their own.
Stark asked how often the VES gym is used. Stillman responded that it is used a lot by the YMCA and the Rec department because the basketball hoops can be lowered to eight feet, which makes it ideal for the younger kids playing basketball.
Stillman went on to say that this is a hectic season for facility usage and that all four gyms are booked every day from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and sometimes later. Coaches and students don’t want to have to practice before school just to get gym time. By making the weekends more affordable, the outside groups will be more inclined to use the facilities on weekends, opposed to during the week.
In regards to who gets gym time, Stillman explained that first preference goes to all in-season sports teams from 7th grade through varsity, which includes cheerleaders and winter guard. Next are all the off-season teams that do conditioning. Third are the outside groups.
Innes asked Stillman if he needed a decision tonight, and he said he did not. To which Habermehl responded, that the board was open to discussing it further and rewording the policy, but he didn’t think they should rush into it. They agreed to get more information and details regarding utility costs and looking at the wording of the current policy before the Monday, November 20, board meeting.