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Roswell Adult Center fees still concern some

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City Manager Joe Neeb assures Leslie Andrews, president of Pecos Valley Quilters, during a Wednesday meeting at City Hall that city staff will work with the group concerning new Roswell Adult Center room rental fees that took effect at the start of the year. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

City staff have indicated their willingness to work with a local nonprofit that says it cannot afford to pay the new fees at the Roswell Adult Center.

Leslie Andrews, the president of Pecos Valley Quilters, told three city councilors attending the General Services Committee meeting Wednesday that her group had been paying $500 a year for Room 22 for about 27 years.

It received a May bill that charged $40 an hour for about six hours a week for the month, which would have been about $960. Carolyn Mitchell, a member of the quilters group and the president of the Roswell Adult Center Foundation, said the group would have to pay about $13,000 a year at those rates.

“We simply cannot pay $40 an hour and do what we do,” Andrews said. “We are asking for some sort of consideration.”

The nonprofit has existed since 1983 and has been meeting in Room 22 since 1984, making upgrades and changes to the room. It now meets for about six hours every Wednesday.

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As an independent membership organization and not an official program of the Adult Center, it was told it is subject to a room rental fee of $40 an hour. The nonprofit has about $5,172 in its budget now and tries to keep at least $4,000 in reserve for a biennual event.

“Most of what is there is kept as seed money for the quilt show that we put on every two years,” Andrews said.

She said that the quilts made by the group are typically donated to veterans groups, at-risk groups, dislocated families or other people who might have a need.

She said that the group will have to move if the fee remains as it is.

“We do exactly what the mission statement says the RAC is for,” Andrews said. “We are social. We are bringing older members of the community in. We would be happy to figure out how to work with the kids, if that is a new direction at the RAC.”

City Manager Joe Neeb said that he has asked Recreation Department staff to work with the Pecos Valley Quilters on the issue, perhaps making it a program of the Adult Center. That would reduce its fee by about half, he said.

As a program, the group would then help other Adult Center users, and perhaps youth, who aren’t members of the group learn or practice quilting.

Neeb said that the city staff wants to market and promote the Adult Center better so that it will be used by a greater number of people.

“We have 11,000 people in this city that are over 55,” Neeb said. “But our number of people that are in that Adult Center are not close to that number. I don’t think they are even close to 10%.”

The Adult Center, like the Roswell Aquatic and Recreation Center, has a 50-50 cost-recovery guideline, Neeb explained, where it is expected to work toward earning 50% of its operating costs from equipment use fees, room rental fees, class fees, donations and sponsorships. Neeb said operating costs at the Adult Center are running about $212,000 a year.

Neeb explained that no immediate resolution could be offered to Andrews or her group, but also assured people that the quilters won’t be required to move.

“I won’t need a check tomorrow,” he said, “and nobody is going to get kicked out of the building tomorrow if we don’t get paid what we are asking for.”

Mitchell of the Roswell Adult Center Foundation also voiced frustration about a lack of transparency.

She said few people have realized that the center has reopened following the coronavirus closures, which is why Neeb has counted so few visitors in recent weeks.

“There are a lot of people in our community who are willing to be a part of this, but we need to know what the city is doing,” she said. “Our lines of communication are nil. We are very frustrated because we want to do what is right for the center and for Roswell.”

She said the foundation bylaws prevent it from giving money to the city. As Mitchell discussed during the meeting and in prior interviews, the foundation has provided at least $40,000 in gifts to the Adult Center during the past eight years. Those items have included curtains, kilns, cabinets for the quilters, resurfaced gym floors, two new pool tables, outfits for dancers and stage equipment. It also restored a statue outside the building.

The current Adult Center room rental rates range from $25 to $50 an hour, before taxes, according to the city of Roswell website. Annual room rental rates can be negotiated under the policy. While people can use the hospitality room for free, people using the pool tables pay $1 a day or $10 a month and people using the cardio equipment pay $1 per punch card. Classes offered by instructors also usually have their own fees.

The Roswell City Council passed the new fee policy by a vote of 8-2 on Oct. 8, 2020. That policy — which included fees for other recreation facilities and activities — was a revision of fees passed in 2019 that also upset some Adult Center visitors and caused the city to rework the policy.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.