The Colusa City Council wants to keep a decades-old commitment to members of the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, but without the Colusa Scout Cabin becoming a burden on local taxpayers.
In nine months, the facility has lost $4,600 and officials said the cost to the public would only continue to go up.
“We would at least like to break even,” said City Manger Jesse Caine, during last week’s well-attended discussion on the future of the facility.
The city granted the land for a Scout Cabin on May 5, 1930, after 13 local businesses and a host of volunteers offered to donate materials and labor to construct a facility for the city’s (then) two Boy Scout and one Cub Scout troops, according to newspaper records.
After the Great Depression and World War II delayed construction, the effort was resurrected after the federal government authorized funding in the 1940s to aid communities who wanted to build such facilities.
Until recently, the city leased the Scout Cabin to Colusa County, who managed the meeting and rental facility for more than 30 years.
“We just took it back over in March,” Cain said.
Since 1987, while also honoring a non-binding agreement to allow the scouts to continue using the facility at no cost, Colusa County used the Scout Cabin to house the Veterans Services Officer, activities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Senior Nutrition Program, and Passages, a program that assisted older adults and their care providers.
Colusa County used a $108,000 state grant from the Department of Aging to renovate the facility for use by seniors. The Scout Cabin, which has ADA access, also became a low-cost venue option for events, parties, and fundraisers.
Colusa Mayor Greg Ponciano, who met with Scout leaders prior to the Nov. 19 City Council meeting after social media spiraled, said it was not the city’s intention to disrupt scouting activities, which provide valuable service to the community, but to clean up some pressing issues so that the city could develop of clear policy and use schedule for the building, in order to make better management decisions for the public.
The city took in only $6,475 in rental fees in the nine months since they resumed management, but spent $11,118 on mostly energy and maintenance, in part because no formal agreement, schedule of use, or even cleaning policy could be found between the city and scouts, officials said.
“We don’t, for instance, have any idea who has or how many keys are roaming around,” Ponciano said. “We don’t have any current insurance information. We don’t know what nights the troops meet or who their leaders are. That is why we decided to just throw this out there so we can get through it. We need to be able to have the capacity to rent it when it is not being used. In order to do that we need a schedule and a policy.”
But while both the Colusa City Council and the Colusa County Board of Supervisors honored a “handshake” agreement allowing the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts free access to the building, the city cannot legally grant preferential treatment to one non-profit over another, officials said.
“It’s a publicly owned building,” said City Attorney Ryan Jones.
The City Council directed Cain to work through some of those issues, and develop a use and fee policy to bring back to the City Council, and to also develop a schedule for when the building will be used by the scouts.
The city’s goal is to see non-profits and the public take more interest in using the facility or sponsoring scouting activities so that revenue generated could go toward building maintenance and improvement, officials said. ■