PAL and chamber take over paying their utilities

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The City Council will meet May 11 to formalize leases for property used by the Police Activities League and the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations will remain at their current locations. The Chamber of Commerce is at 540 F St., and the Lincoln Youth Center, operated by PAL, is located at 391 H St. The chamber currently pays $1 in rent yearly for its rent. Formalization of the leases means both organizations will be responsible for paying their own utilities and carrying insurance for their respective buildings, according to George Dellwo, assistant director of development services for the city of Lincoln. The redevelopment agency owns the F Street building and the city owns the building on H Street, according to Dellwo. The May 11 meeting will be a hearing between the council and Redevelopment Agency. Mayor Tom Cosgrove said Redevelopment Agency members are the City Council members. Cosgrove said the leases for both buildings are through the redevelopment agency. Cosgrove said the city is formalizing the leases “to give the rationale and logic for how we can allow the leases to occur, because of the public benefit.” “One of the things we don’t want to do is (have the buildings) sit idle when there is a use for those buildings that have a public benefit,” Cosgrove said. “We worked with the chamber and with PAL to lease the buildings the city has that would otherwise be vacant and put them to good use.” Cosgrove said each organization will pay utilities “in light of the current budget situation.” Dellwo said both organizations have to pay their own utilities “because under state law if the city pays the utilities it would be considered a gift, and by state law, we are not allowed to gift public money.” He also said the rental agreements are being reconciled “with the true owner of the building.” “You want to be in a rental agreement with the true owner because it’s the law,” Dellwo said. What this means for PAL and the Chamber of Commerce Jim Datzman, president of the Police Activities League, said the formalization of the lease “makes it official as of May 12 that any and all expenses related to the building are ours.” “I think this is a time where the city is doing the right thing,” Datzman said. “The $1 a year is because the building would be sitting vacant otherwise and they are recognizing that we’re providing a service to the city.” Datzman said the youth center, which is in the old fire station on H Street, costs from $35,000 to $50,000 a year to run, and he estimated the utilities costing $4,000 to $5000 a year. “It’s not going to be painless,” Datzman said. “We’re engaging in some meetings to try and figure out various funding strategies.” Datzman said PAL is planning to run the Youth Center with reserves until summer vacation starts. “ReDirect has agreed to pay the expenses to keep it open during this summer,” Datzman said. “Once school starts again, with the reserve funds, we’re going to be able to stay open if we watch expenses closely until the end of the calendar year and conceivably to the end of the school year.” PAL is looking “anywhere and everywhere” to keep the Youth Center open, with the possibilities of fundraisers, according to Datzman. “We’ve had some terrific support from service clubs like rotary, who provided money to take care of lunches and snacks on Friday’s,” Datzman said. “If anyone wants to uplift themselves, come and spend time with the kids.” Datzman said News Messenger readers interested in helping the Youth Center can call Steve Krueger, executive director of the Police Activities League, at 645-4040. Bob Romness, CEO for the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce, said the formalization of the lease won’t affect the chamber because they are already paying $1 a year for rent, pay their own utilities and carry insurance.