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Vashon's community council will have to pay to use Courthouse Square

The Vashon-Maury Island Community Council is looking for a new place to hold its meetings after learning from Courthouse Square manager Tom Bangasser that the group will have to begin paying a fee to meet at the popular building on Vashon Highway.

The community council has been meeting at Courthouse Square for several years and has not had to pay a penny for the privilege. But Bangasser said it costs Vashon College, which owns the building, money to keep the lights on and the building maintained.

"It was just getting to be taken for granted," he added. "Up until a month ago, I don't think we'd even gotten a thank-you note."

Bangasser said he estimates that the college is making a charitable contribution of up to $40,000 a year by providing free meeting space to the community council and other groups.

"We've been extremely quiet about it," he added.

In a letter to the community council last month, Bangasser said CHS Vashon, Inc., a wholly owned affiliate of Vashon College, will begin charging $35 an hour for use of the large meeting room at Courthouse Square and $10 an hour for the small meeting area in the lobby. The new fees are to go into effect in 2010, he said.

But Hilary Emmer, treasurer for the community council, said the organization cannot afford to pay that much for meeting space. According to her calculations, the new fee schedule would mean the council would have to pay about $2,000 a year to hold its two monthly meetings and numerous committee meetings at Courthouse Square.

The council — a non-governmental entity established by King County to act as a liaison between Vashon residents and county government — receives $10,000 a year from the county to fund its operations. Most of that money is spoken for, said Emmer; it goes towards insurance, election costs, printing costs, occasional refreshments and other incidentals, she said.

"The board is busily looking at other locations," Emmer said.

Jean Bosch, who chairs the board, said Bangasser has every right to charge the council for use of the building. The current set-up has never been codified, she noted. But it'll be hard if the council has to find a new spot, she said.

"It's a great space. I love being there," she said.

Particularly helpful is the fact that Voice of Vashon has set up its equipment so that it can broadcast meetings live from Courthouse Square, she said.

"If we can find something we like, we'll probably go. But I'd rather not," she added.

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