Alcova Residents Want The Natrona County School District To Waive Building Use Fees
Thirty bucks here, thirty bucks there, and after a while it adds up to real money for Alcova residents and using their one-room school that's the heart of their community.
"We're a special situation, as well as other rural schools, said Meredith Widiker of the Alcova Community Foundation.
"We use the building as a community center," Widiker said after the Natrona County Board of Trustees meeting Monday. "It's the only place in our little town where we can meet other than the Alcova Church, and not everybody wants to come to meetings there."
Widiker and three other representatives of the community foundation asked the board of trustees to alter its policy that went into effect last year for renting their elementary school on Reclamation Drive below the spillway of the Alcova Dam.
Because for them living in an unincorporated community means they don't have much money, they said.
"We didn't realize it had gone into effect until we tried to use the school this fall," she said. "We wanted it for a bingo night and we found out that it had to be under the guise of 'school-sponsored' for us to use it."
Otherwise, the foundation would need to pay $30 an hour to use the building or the gym or the kitchen; pay for a custodian; and pay somebody from the school district to be there, she said.
There never had been a problem before, they said. They didn't need a custodian because they always cleaned up after themselves, Widiker said.
She and the others said they want the district to alter it's protocol, although they will need to buy an insurance policy.
After the meeting, board of trustees chairman Kevin Christopherson said what's happened in Alcova boils down to the unintended consequences of trying to make all school buildings more available to the public.
"It was put into effect to try to get more people into our schools," Christopherson said. "It's public property and we want the public in our schools, but we didn't have any set rules."
Before the policy went into effect, some schools charged for their facilities and some didn't, he said.
"There's always unintended consequences, and the rural schools really don't fit into the schools we have here -- the big high schools, our theaters, and everything. So sometimes you have to make exceptions for them," Christopherson said.
A group that wants to rent the renovated $10 million Welsh Theater at Natrona County High School may have no problem spending $30 an hour for its use, but a community group in Alcova may find $30 an hour is too much to rent its local school, he said.
The district intends to fix the problem, he said.
"You always have to make tweaks and waivers and exceptions, and they were requesting a waiver so we'll work something out with them, because that's really their community center out there," Christopherson said.