Citizens Park

These ducks that frequent Citizens Lodge Park aren’t concerned about the matter, but their hang-out is at the center of a rental policy analysis ordered by Jackson County Commissioners, the people who set those rules.

Jackson County Commissioners have asked staff to research in depth the county’s policies regarding rental of the public assets they control. Those staffers could also potentially offer needed amendments, clarifications or enhancement of those rules.

The need for such analysis became clear when, late last month, Jackson County Public Works Director Rett Daniels spoke to the board regarding the potential rental of the entire Citizens’ Lodge property to an entity that wants to hold a gospel sing there and charge admission to the event.

Noting that an admission-based event there would in effect close the park to walkers and other users unwilling to pay the price for something they’re not wanting to attend, Daniels said he wanted to know whether the board would allow him to charge for-profits rent for the entire facility rather than just one asset, like the stage there. Since their charge-based admission would leave the county without the ability to rent the pavilions and other assets inside the property for their time period, he said, he’s asking for that authority so that the county wouldn’t lose potential money on the other assets.

That led to a discussion of whether the board does or should offer exclusive rental to a public asset in cases where doing so would prevent general users from being on the property for walks or to sit by the pond behind the lodge, activities for which there is no charge. There’s also no charge for the as-available non-exclusive use of the pavilions in the park by individuals.

Complicating the issue is the fact that, in some cases, the board already rents places like the single-asset Russ House for weddings and in that case the practice does in effect exclude others from being there for other purposes.

There’s also the agriculture center on U.S. 90, which is also rented out to horse-show outfits and other entities that charge admission into their events.

There’s also some grey area in the question of what defines for-profit and whether that includes situations where admission is charged only for the purpose of simply recouping expenses for putting on events.

Commissioners pondered whether it was fair to turn walkers away from the facility, for instance, for the benefit of a for-profit entity. Commissioner Willie Spires said he didn’t think that was right, and he offered a motion, which failed on a 2-3 vote, that would have prohibited rental of public assets to for-profit entities charging admission. He wasn’t the only one on the board to indicate during the overall discussion a belief that such a policy is in fact already in place.

After that vote was taken the public works director said he thought that would have been a mistake, since he felt it “would really cripple other facilities.”

And the county is also left to consider how the policies as they exist now and later might affect tourism.

So, commissioners turned the matter over to staff for research and potential suggestions.

The board could adopt a blanket policy, tailor individual facility policies, or amend what is already in place.

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