BY JAMES HARPER
Even though the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center in Daytona Beach has been open since May 29, residents have not been able to rent the gym, kitchen, dance studio, computer room or recording room for a private function. That’s because there were no fees set to do so.
Daytona Beach Leisure Services Director Percy Williams told the Daytona Times this week he did not have the right to rent the facility.
That all changed last week when the Daytona Beach City Commission approved new rates for the facility, Manatee Island and the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center, which is expected to open in mid-January of next year.
“When individuals come in and use computers and participate in programs, they are not paying the rental fees,” according to Williamson.
Rise in rates
The rates to exclusively rent sections of the new centers will be higher than the Peggy Schnebly Center and the John H. Dickerson Community Center.
Williamson said rates for those centers and other city-run properties are expected to increase next year by the new Daytona Beach City Commission, which was installed this week.
He said the elected officials are expected to review fees charged for all city-owned properties during a special workshop that will take place soon.
Before the fees were set for the Midtown Cultural and Education Center and Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center, residents and commissioners raised concerns about the rates.
Zone 2 Commissioner Pam Woods said it was misleading to tell residents there was an hourly rate when actually there is a three-hour minimum to rent any parts of the centers.
“They need to know right upfront what it will be,” she stated.
Williamson said at a recent city commission meeting that all of the city’s rental facilities have a three-hour minimum.
“We have to allow for set up and breakdown. If they want to rent for one hour, they don’t have an opportunity to do those things. It will take more than one hour to have a good experience,” Williamson explained.
Even with the fees, Daytona officials acknowledged that all city-owned facilities operate at a loss, noting the less they charge the bigger the loss.
Williamson addressed these concerns of the commissioners.
“You wanted to have lower rates. Staff got together to modify rates to be resident friendly,” he said about the new rates at the Midtown center.
“Deficit is higher based on reducing revenue coming in. Keep in mind these facilities (Midtown and Scarlett-Golden) did not exist previously. There are no historical numbers that we can specifically give to you. We have to use best estimates. We have not been open for a full schedule. It will be a living document. We will get more historical numbers,” Williamson said.
‘Get people in’
Outgoing Mayor Glenn Ritchey chimed in.
“We don’t want them sitting empty. We don’t won’t them unused. If we have those facilities and people can‘t use them, I have to question why we built them,” Ritchey remarked.
Zone 4 City Commissioner Robert Gilliland said he wants to make sure taxpayers are aware that their money used to construct the facilities is not being wasted.
“This is not an enterprise fund. We are not trying to break even. We should be able to document to the community their investment – that we are good stewards of their money,” Gilliland said.
Zone 5 Commissioner Patrick Henry echoed Gilliland’s remarks, adding that he is satisfied with the beginning rates the city is charging for new centers.
“We need to get people in centers and then we look back. And if we need to adjust, we will adjust. Midtown (has been) sitting there not being able to be used. I want the Yvonne Scarlett Golden Center opened up and ready to go. Wherever we set rates, we need to get the centers used,” Henry said.
Mentoring programs coming
Residents have been using the center since it opened in May for basketball programs and other activities organized by the city, Williamson noted. Residents also have been able to go in and use the computers. Midtown opens at noon until 8 p.m.
Williamson said the city has been negotiating with Bethune-Cookman and Daytona State College to begin other programs that will soon be available to residents and the city’s youth at a nominal charge.
“We have agreements in principal – talks about mentoring. We have commitments for (B-CU and Daytona State) students to come over (and help) with dance studio and music studio. We are poised and ready to move forward. Pepsi has agreed to purchase a significant amount of equipment (for a recording studio). Once equipment gets there, it will be a magnet. (Residents) can come to the center and get first-hand mentoring,” Williamson added.