By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors voted Tuesday to turn over management of four veterans buildings to two nonprofit groups, a move that is anticipated to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Veterans buildings in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Cotati will be operated by United Camps, Conferences and Retreats, a Petaluma-based nonprofit that runs recreational sites in Northern California.
The Guerneville gathering hall will be run by River to Coast Children’s Services, which is based in Guerneville.
Supervisor David Rabbitt said prior to the board’s unanimous vote Tuesday that ideally the county would maintain control of the buildings.
“But of course, money is an issue,” he said.
County officials say shifting management of the four facilities to the nonprofit groups will save the county $330,622 this budget year.
United Camps was granted a five-year agreement to operate the Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Cotati facilities with an option to extend the agreement for another five years.
The county will pay a concessionaire’s fee to the nonprofit based on a percentage of gross revenue.
The River to Coast group was awarded a 15-year lease agreement to operate the Guerneville building. The county will reimburse the nonprofit an amount not to exceed $75,000 over the first two years for kitchen improvements and start-up costs.
Officials estimate the county will save $40,000 annually.
Supervisors said the contracts represent a model of the county working with private and public groups to maintain community access to the veterans buildings while cutting costs.
However, supervisor Shirlee Zane said the contracts don’t answer how the county will meet the $19 million maintenance backlog for its seven veterans buildings.
Rental fees will remain the same for the facilities this fiscal year. Changes in rates that exceed the consumer price index will require prior approval from county supervisors under the terms of both deals.
The nonprofits do not have the authority to waive or reduce fees for users. However, renters can apply for scholarships to cover those costs.
A handful of veterans spoke favorably of the contracts at Tuesday’s board meeting. “I think this is a good first start,” said Pete Peterka, a veterans representative for the Santa Rosa building.
Supervisors in June approved turning over management of the Sebastopol veterans building to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
The county is in talks to sell the Cloverdale veterans building to the city of Cloverdale. The Sonoma building will continue to be managed by the county after community members turned out to oppose any change in management.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.