The Harnett County Board of Education on Monday elected to keep charging Campbell University fees for use of its facilities.
Deputy Superintendent W. Brooks Mathews told board members that he recently directed staff to start implementing normal rental fees for Campbell’s use of HCS facilities in the wake of its ever-changing relationship with the university that up until last month appeared in good standing.
“Basically, that is to cover our expenses,” Mathews said. “We’re not trying to rent out our facilities to make money. We’re simply trying to cover our expenses as well.”
Campbell in early December informed the school board that a floor maintenance project scheduled for June would prevent HCS from holding its graduation ceremonies in the John C. Pope Convocation Center. The school board elected to let each of the county’s four high schools host their own commencements.
HCS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming met with Campbell officials earlier this month and came away feeling that future graduations would continue at the convocation center as they had for the past decade. The university, however, added that once the flooring project is finished, HCS may need to pay additional fees for future events such as basketball tournaments and spelling bees.
Mathews decided to move forward with charging the university similar fees for cleanup, personnel and utilities.
“They don’t use a lot,” said Mathews. “They use Buies Creek Elementary School for some of their students activities like cheerleading practice and that sort of thing. We have always kind of just worked with them to allow them to use that with no charge because of the relationship we had. When we were allowing that use without any fees attached to it, we were receiving the same or even more from Campbell. We were probably using their facilities more than they used ours, but since that landscape is changing, we felt like it’s only right that we go ahead and revert back to what we do for everybody else.”
Fleming said gray areas in the arrangement with Campbell still need clarification when it comes to what fees HCS will have to pay for which facilities. The university and Harnett County commissioners in 2008 entered into an agreement where Campbell received $1 million in exchange for public usage of the center and other facilities.
“The agreement of us using those facilities was actually between the county and the university so it’s not our contract,” Fleming said. “We certainly were the beneficiaries of that. I don’t believe they’re going to charge us any kind of use fee for the facility as they would other groups, but they are asking that we assist with overtime and cleaning of the facility. What we don’t know is the fine line between clean up fees and rental fees and will that only apply to the convocation center or all Campbell facilities. That’s the conversation we have to have.”
Board member Jason Lemons said that a recent request to use the university’s chapel for a choir concert was met with a price quote for $2,100 that never had been charged before.
“That seems like a lot for a two and a half hour concert,” said Lemons.
Board member Bill Morris felt the fees should remain until the two sides can meet and hammer out a formal agreement when it comes to facility usage and ensuing costs.
“We should proceed as Mr. Mathews has suggested,” Morris said. “Later on, if we can work out the details where if there is swap, then great. If there’s not, then we have a business to run just like they do. I’m wide open for doing an exchange again, but we need to go ahead and pursue that until some other arrangement is made. That leaves the door open for whatever we work out with Campbell.”
Fleming said he plans to meet with Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart and Campbell officials in the coming weeks to further the discussion and come to a more comprehensive agreement.
-Dunn Daily Record