February 18, 2018

Historical Society Request for Exemption to Meeting House Use Fees Rejected

CHESTER— The board of selectmen Tuesday declined to approve an exemption to the use fee for the Chester Meeting House that had been requested earlier this month by members of the Chester Historical Society.

Skip Hubbard, society president, and other members attended the board’s June 4 meeting to request an exemption from a $200 fee the town requires for local non-profit organizations that use the meeting house on Liberty Street for public events, such as fundraisers, that include an admission fee. The fee was part of a package of fees for rental of the meeting house that were adopted by the board of selectmen a year ago and became effective on July 1, 2012.

The board maintained a policy of no charge for events that are sponsored by non-profit organizations and are open to the public with no admission charge. But the board imposed a $200 fee for events sponsored by local non-profit organizations that have an admission charge. The use fee is $350 for events sponsored by private for-profit groups and organizations. The fees are intended to help reimburse the town for expenses related to maintaining the historic meeting house, including utility costs.

Hubbard had contended at the June 4 meeting the historical society should receive an exemption from the fee for it’s fundraisers because the organization and its members were actively involved in the effort to restore the meeting house for active public use during the 1980s and 1990s.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said he “appreciates what the historical society does and has done for the town,” but believes it is “better public policy to treat everybody equally,” on the use fee for the meeting house. “We need to be uniform and fair across the board,” he said.

Selectmen Larry Sypher and Tom Englert agreed, with Englert saying he does not view the $200 fee as “burdensome” for public events in a building that seats 160 people and has a stage and balcony. Englert said allowing an exemption for the historical society would be unfair to other local non-profit organizations that rent the meeting house for public events.

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