The recent improvements to the Joseph Community Center have caused an unexpected reaction: Long-time renters seeking space elsewhere.

Several long-time renters, including the Holiday Bazaar and the Eagle Cap Extreme, have balked at paying the increased prices and already booked other venues for their events.

At the Oct. 3 city council meeting, some people raised objections to the fee hike. Meg Bowen said she was impressed with the improvements and asked if there had been an uptick in rentals since the improvements were implemented.

"Are we going to have the Eagle Cap Extreme here again this year (the sled dog races)" "Are we going to have the (Holiday) Bazaar here. Are we going to have other folks renting this place? Is there a plan in place to make that happen, make this a usable and feasible place for our community members to use?"

Community Center Committee member, Raider Heck, replied that was the intent of the improvements, but it would take some time.

"The response from the folks that have used it since the work has started has been a really neat response," he said. He added that the latest renters said they no longer mind cleaning the building as it is now much cleaner than it once was.

He also said that when he comes in to work on the building after a weekend rental, it is now so clean you can't tell anyone was there. After noting the building will get wired for 21st century technology and individual building spaces will be available to rent instead of forcing renters to rent the entire center.

City administrator, Larry Braden, said the rent amounts increased with the improvements and to bring the center into contemporary times and that would give renters incentive to keep it clean. Heck also later said that the city paid a significant sum to bring the kitchen up to fire suppression code. 

In response to a question from local business owner, Sally Brandt, Heck said a portable sound system is on the center's wish list, and could be added as a separate rental fee. Brandt asked what had happened to the center's previous sound system that required no extra charge. Heck acknowledged the comment.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Brandt addressed the community center rental fees for the Christmas/Holiday bazaar, which brings in a number of tourists. She noted how she and other volunteers put on the four-day event without charge and worked to keep rental fees down because most crafters work on slim margins of profit.

"We have paid $425 per weekend for the entire space for years," she said. "We have always left the community center clean, as most people know, cleaner than we found it."

Brandt also noted that along with the new $400 deposit and increased rental fees on the center added for insurance costs and other assorted costs, the building proved cost-prohibitive.

"We could pay the $150 (deposit) that was required last year, and it's possible we could pay another $125 per weekend if we raise our vendor's fee by $5 per weekend, but nothing beyond this amount," Brandt said. "That would equal $550 per weekend as opposed to the $650 per weekend we're looking at." She also said that in the past, the bazaar set up on the Thursday before the weekend and those who participated in both bazaar weekends could leave their booths standing for the duration, but could no longer do that to allow for others renting the space and because the council planned a meeting for Thursday Dec. 5.

"In the past, that council meeting has been held in the back room of the center, the library, or the city council meeting space," Brandt said. "We are well aware of other organizations that are no longer using this facility due to the increased cost. You will continue by counting us if we are forced by the cost to leave." Brandt also asked if the council had considered giving cost consideration to events that are advancing the viability of the town versus a one-time event, such as a wedding. No one on the council replied. 

The Holiday Bazaar changed its location to the The Place on Third and South Lake Street.

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