Minden officials offered the Carson Valley Orchestra a three-year payment plan Wednesday that the town hopes will solve an equity issue with other nonprofits and make it possible for the musicians to continue to use the CVIC Hall.
The musicians - 15 were in attendance - were unsure whether the orchestra would be able to meet the schedule without charging for concerts.
"Whatever happens tonight, I don't want you to think the town of Minden doesn't want you to play here," board chairman Bruce Jacobsen told the group. "This is an equity issue."
The board proposed that the 40-member orchestra pay 50 percent of the town's $50-per-hour rental fee this year, 75 percent in 2008 and 100 percent in 2009.
When the orchestra formed in 1999, the town offered free use of the hall for weekly practices and three or four concerts per year.
In a Jan. 16 letter to the board, the orchestra proposed paying $750 annually for use of the hall.
Orchestra vice president and clarinetist Tony Chieffo said musicians weren't sure if they would attract the standing-room-only crowds for concerts if people had to pay.
"For our last concert, we collected $72 in donations. It's hard to sustain on that," he said.
Board member Ross Chichester said town policy had to be consistent.
"We have an equity issue with what we charge other people to use the hall," Chichester said. "Years and years ago, when we set this up, there were no other nonprofits. I just don't see where the town can subsidize one and not the other."
Town board members urged the orchestra to seek grants from the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce or Douglas County as well as the private sector.
Musician and composer Aaron Pellegrini of Yerington said the situation mirrored what was happening to the arts across the country.
"The grant process takes a very long time," he said. 'We simply ask the chance to continue on as we are. We play for the entire Valley and we play here because you've got the best hall in the Valley."
Minden resident Beverly Giannopulos said she was a major supporter, but felt the orchestra should pay.
"I'm not one to step on people's toes," she said. "But if you have to have a contract, I think it should be an equitable thing. You need to take care of one and all under the same guidelines."
As a long-time member of the Douglas County Historical Society, Marlena Hellwinkel said she understood the struggles faced by nonprofit organizations.
"You charge to cover expenses, but don't make a profit. People love the orchestra. They should be happy to pay," she said.
Music director Danny Yale told the board he thought their minds were made up.
"We do not have the money to meet you half way," he said. "The figure is too high. It's up to you to give us an equitable figure we can live with."
"It's not what our counter offer is," board member Dave Sheets said. "You know our dilemma. How are you going to solve our problem?"
The orchestra members said they would hold a special meeting to bring the town's proposal to their board.
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