Balance is in order

By Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo City Councilmember | Aug 08, 2012

There comes a time when one has to consider if the expense in time and money applied toward shaping the Rosehill Community Center into more of a community asset than a place for private parties (i.e. weddings) is worth it.

Despite many repeated attempts (which I’ll summarize in a bit), I’ve come to the conclusion that the adopted policies and operations will continue to favor non-community revenue generating activities (i.e. weddings) over other community focused activities.

However, considering the 2012 budget shows operations alone being subsidized by Mukilteo taxpayers at the rate of $287,000 ($205,000 + $82,000 for the dedicated Public Works employee not shown in the Recreation & Cultural Services Department budget), I’ve decided it’s only fair to Mukilteo taxpayers that the community center pay for itself until its usage at least balances community use over private non-community use.

Therefore, I plan on voting against any future budget unless the “Operating Transfers In” line item (plus the $82,000 hidden public works employee expense) for the Recreation & Cultural Services department is zero.

Here’s a summary of why I believe the balance between community and non-community is so far out of whack:

The community center closes to the public at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and is closed all day on Sunday. At the same time, extended hours for other events (i.e. weddings) go until midnight on those days.

Several residents have reported to me that when asking Rosehill staff about extending the open hours for the community they were told to go to the City Council. However, every time the director comes before the council, she recommends against extending the hours.

In addition to the community center itself being available for rentals (i.e. weddings), now even the Rosehill grounds (large grass area and plaza) are available for rent. This further excludes the public from using the grounds.

There is no plan to move forward with a gym in the new community center and in fact at a recent Parks and Arts Commission meeting I attended, staff presented a list of deficiencies in ball fields, tennis courts, and gyms suggesting that some of those deficiencies would be addressed when the new Boy’s and Girl’s club facilities are built.

When the new community center was built, we lost the ball field, tennis courts and gym that were present at the old Rosehill.

The two rooms now being promoted most at Rosehill for non-community use are the Point Elliott room and the Christiansen room. However, the Christiansen room was also intended to be dedicated to the Mukilteo Seniors.

Recent attempts to dedicate the Christiansen room to the Mukilteo Seniors and as a community meeting room crashed and burned miserably…even with a full year of analyzed data.

Apparently the patio area outside of the Christiansen room also comes with a rental of the room, as two residents recently were evicted from enjoying the area because the room had been “rented.”

In 2011, the recreational programming fees didn’t meet expectations so the “solution” was to decrease the expected revenues in the 2012 budget from $130,000 to $100,000.

At the same time, the emphasis on community center room rentals (i.e. weddings) resulted in an increase in that category from $134,700 in 2011 to $175,000 in 2012.

Although the emphasis for the community center is clearly non-community room rentals (i.e. weddings), recent data that clearly shows money is being left on the table was met with the attitude of “let’s see how the current (small) increases do and re-evaluate it later.”

Unfortunately, Mukilteo taxpayers are subsidizing this wait-and-see attitude. If and when someone realizes we may not be charging market rates, the reservation system currently in place will prevent the changes from taking effect not this summer, not next summer, but the following summer (2014).

Most of the council and the administration seem to have bought the lie that the doors really do close at 10 p.m. in consideration of the surrounding neighbors.

Think about it: a nice summer night where people are congregating on the balcony. Not only are the doors not going to be closed, but the noise from the celebration isn’t even necessarily coming from inside the building.

After putting up signs twice excluding specific community events from using the underutilized parking lot on 3rd Street, apparently the solution was to put up a sign excluding ALL non-Rosehill parking.

Unfortunately, most events (i.e. weddings) at the community center fill up the upper parking lot first then all the street parking and lastly the lower lot. As a result, the surrounding businesses are left with little street parking and are excluded from using the available parking lot on 3rd Street.

It’s unfortunate that the relatively small community support afforded by the community center appears to be enough to justify a large exclusion and disregard for the Mukilteo community in general, but that’s how it is and I don’t see anything changing in the foreseeable future.

If you want more details or to discuss other items on your mind please join Councilmember Steve Schmalz and myself at our next Council Chat on Thursday, Aug. 16, between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. This time we’ll try meeting at the Rosehill Community Center on the patio just outside of the Christiansen room.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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