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LEADERS AIMING TO LIMIT USE OF MEETING ROOM BY GROUPS

The castlelike Aurora Town Hall, sitting on the historic Roycroft Campus, is anything but a typical government building.

Inside the building's large wooden doors, the Town Board meets in a room that doubles as a community museum.

A portrait of Roycroft founder and philosopher Elbert Hubbard hangs above a mantel overlooking the room, which is chock-full of varied historical artifacts from Aurora -- some dating from pioneer days and the Civil War period, along with a strong influence from the Arts and Crafts movement.

All those artifacts, many in glass cases and hutches, are a big reason why town leaders are leaning toward no longer allowing community organizations to use the meeting room or to have weddings performed there.

"Strangers shouldn't be allowed in this room," Councilman Norman K. Suttell said. "Some of this stuff really has value."

After requests from groups outside Aurora began funneling in earlier this year, town officials started questioning whether restrictions should be tightened on use of the meeting room.

"We have a lot of interest from groups outside Aurora because of the uniqueness of the building and because it's on the Roycroft Campus," Town Supervisor Terence M. Yarnall said after Monday's board meeting. "We do need to be very cognizant of the historical artifacts."

The board plans to discuss the issue during its Monday work session. Several board members say they are interested in urging community organizations to instead use the Aurora Senior Center for their functions or meetings. Some groups already are doing so.

"The Senior Center is a community center, and organizations should go there first and come here as their second choice," Yarnall said.

Councilman Jeffrey T. Harris said that only government and the Roycrofters should be allowed to use the chapel meeting room, while others should be encouraged to use Senior Center on Oakwood Avenue.

"The Senior Center is also a community center, and that's where they should be," he said.

So far, the town has not charged user fees, nor has it distinguished between Aurora groups and those based in other communities looking to use the facility. Councilman William D. Reuter has said that it may be time to begin charging a user fee to cover cleanup, maintenance and utility costs tied to the use of the meeting room by groups.

"The problem is when people come in here and start seeing things," Harris said, alluding to the risk of theft. "That's what worries me. You could get someone making up the name of a group, who is given a key and then cleans out (the room)."

Current town rules do not require a town official to be present while groups use the room or weddings are held there, though fewer weddings are performed at Town Hall than previously.

Keys are also lent out to groups that obtain town permission to use the meeting room, but, in some cases, they are not returned in a timely manner to Town Hall.

Town officials are considering whether to implement a refundable deposit on keys and a 24-hour rule for key return.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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