In a small place like Taneytown, officials sometimes find themselves in the unpopular position of saying no to friends.
Last week, Mayor Henry C. Heine told his fellow Lions Club members that he couldn't continue the practice of the previous mayor to let the group use a pavilion for free at Taneytown Memorial Park. When every other group pays, it would be wrong to show favoritism to one, Heine said.
Not happy with that answer, the Lions Club went to the City Council, which voted not to show favoritism: From now on, all civic groups in the city can use one pavilion free once a year for a family-style picnic.
"It isn't that much money," said Lions Club President George Sauble of the $35 rental fee for one of the five concrete-block pavilions at the park. But the idea that clubs would be forced to pay might have made some members resentful, considering the work they do for the park, he said.
The park at the north end of town is something of a pet project for the city's Lions Club. Members have built pavilions, assembled benches and tables and spread gravel there.
Heine had not realized until now that the fee was waived for the club, he said, and it would look bad if he were to waive it. Heine is a past president of the Lions Club. Councilmen Jim Wieprecht and Brian Long are also club members, and so is the husband of Councilwoman Jacquelyn Boisvert.
"Everybody but the Lions Club paid," Heine said. "The Kiwanis paid. City staff paid. Churches paid.
"I told them I didn't have the authority to [waive the fee]. It would really look like we're showing extreme favoritism. I just won't do it."
Boisvert, whose husband, Carl, is a Lion, proposed the council waive the fee for weeknight pavilion rental for all civic groups that are nonprofit, based in the city of Taneytown and are not using the park to raise money from the public. She also proposed that the fee be waived for just one pavilion, per year, for each of these groups.
The motion passed unanimously. Heine predicts the motion will create more trouble, as different organizations try to claim the exemption. Heine wondered what would happen if the Ku Klux Klan wanted to rent a pavilion for free.
Heine said the new policy slights the Kiwanis Club, which has always paid to rent three or four pavilions for its July crab feast. Such an event wouldn't qualify for the exemption, Heine said, because it raises money, though the money goes to support civic projects.
He would prefer keeping the everybody-pays policy -- with $35 not being an unreasonable fee, he said. For a service club to ask for a waiver seems in conflict with the spirit of voluntarism inherent in such groups, he said.