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Variety of meeting spaces available at low or no cost in public buildings

It may be true that you can’t fight City Hall, but in most towns you can rent it.

For no-frills meetings that require only tables and chairs and perhaps a basic A/V setup, numerous rooms are available for no charge or low rental rates in public buildings such as libraries, schools, fire stations or even at City Hall.

Those kind of meeting rooms are more frequently used by nonprofits and community groups, but many of the spaces are available for businesses to book for meetings, although not for commercial use.

For example, a meeting room that can accommodate 40 people at Poulsbo Fire Station rents for $10 an hour, with a $20 per day charge for A/V or other electronic equipment.

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue has meeting rooms for 30-40 people available at no charge at its two stations in Bremerton and one in Silverdale.

Rental fees vary depending on what kind of organization books the meeting room at the North Kitsap Fire & Rescue station in Kingston. For nonprofit groups whose primary purpose is promoting community welfare, the rate is only $4 per hour. It rises to $30 per hour for other nonprofits that operate primarily for the benefit of their members and want to use the room for promotional or entertainment activities. For use by business-related enterprises, the rates is $60 an hour.

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue allows booking of training rooms at two fire stations in Port Orchard for no charge, and South Kitsap School District and Starbucks are among groups who make use of the meeting space. However, there has been a drop-off in bookings by community and nonprofit groups since the fire district implemented a requirement that groups have a liability insurance rider of $1 million to cover their events.

Another aspect that might be an impediment for certain groups is the limited timeframe for making reservations; some public facilities allow reservations only 30 to 60 days in advance.

Providing hospitality in most of these public meeting rooms is limited to coffee and finger foods; outside catering and on-site cooking generally are not allowed.

There are exceptions, however; the community room at the Poulsbo library has hosted birthday parties and at least one wedding, branch manager Sharon Lee said.

She also said some professional organizations rent the room for monthly or annual meetings.

The Poulsbo library charges a fee for using its meeting room because the city owns the library, but meeting rooms at other Kitsap Regional Library branches are available for free use by community groups.

Jeff Brody, the library system’s director of community relations, said meeting rooms at the Bainbridge Island branch and Sylvan Way branch in Bremerton are among the most frequently used.

“The majority of the public events are homeowners associations and club meetings,” Sylvan Way reference librarian Melinda Mottner said. “Occasionally we will have a government agency use Heninger (meeting room) for training.”

It may not be widely known, but the conference rooms where city councils hold their official meetings can be rented, and at relative bargain rates.

In Poulsbo, the City Council Chambers has a seating capacity of 80 and is available for nonprofits and other government groups to use at no charge. Private groups can rent the room for $40 an hour, plus a $10 per hour A/V fee. Two smaller conference rooms on the second and third floor of City Hall rent for $25 per hour.

City Clerk Jill Boltz said the meeting rooms are used periodically by West Sound Technology Association, Edward Jones financial planners, and out-of-town attorneys for taking depositions.

Starbucks held a district staff meeting earlier this year at Port Orchard City Hall, where rental fees haven’t been raised since the building opened in 1999. The second-floor council chambers, which had high-definition flat-screen monitors installed in an upgrade of the A/V system last year, rents for $40 an hour plus a variable fee for A/V equipment use.

An adjacent conference room and another on the third floor are $25 an hour. There’s also a $35 per hour staffing charge for using the rooms after regular business hours.

In Bremerton, the mayor’s conference room and the larger City Council conference room are available for meetings at no charge, but only during regular business hours.

Kitsap County currently does not allow public use of any meeting or conference rooms in its administrative complex in Port Orchard.

 
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