08/04/11 — County discusses new policy for naming rights to buildings

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County discusses new policy for naming rights to buildings

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 4, 2011 1:46 PM

Work has not yet started on the county's new senior center, but the county already is fielding inquiries about naming rights for the Ash Street property.

Naming county property is nothing new, but what is new is a proposal that would formalize what has up to now been casual agreement between county commissioners when it comes to naming rights.

County Manager Lee Smith called the proposal a "pre-emptive strike" since the county is constantly being asked about naming facilities.

"We get asked about rooms," Smith told commissioners at their Tuesday meeting. "People say, 'I would like to put an endowment down.' I will tell you as we're working and trying to finalize figures on the senior center we have been asked about, 'If we are able to put an endowment in place or contribute 'X' dollars we may be interested in having a plaque or naming a room or naming the building.' That being the case, I don't have anything to go by.

"For some time the county and past boards have named facilities, have named rooms and that sort of thing. But as we move into projects and new facilities when it comes to naming, one thing we have found as a staff is that we really didn't have anything that was consistent. The board has had kind of a general policy amongst themselves over the years as to how to do it."

Smith said he and Marcia Wilson, clerk to the board, had looked at policies in other counties to get an idea of how to prepare one for Wayne County. One policy was very detailed and more than 20 pages long including naming picnic tables.

Smith said he was not asking for a vote, but rather wanted commissioners to have time to review the draft and offer suggestions. Public comment is welcomed as well, he said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson offered two suggestions: One concerning the number of years, 20, that a person must have been active in the community to be considered and secondly, whether to use a nickname as well as a person's formal name.

The proposed policy calls for the person's full formal name to be used, but nicknames should be allowed, too, he said.

As for the number of years, Anderson said somebody could have been in the county 10 or 15 years and have done something exception for the county.

"I would like to see us consider putting something in there that under special circumstances that commissioners can change that so that you are not locked in," he said.

Smith said there has been some debate on the number of years. The years ranged from 10 to 40 in the other policies that were reviewed, he said. The 20-year mark was selected as a middle ground.

"We will look at exceptions," he said.

Commissioner Steve Keen said that under the nominations provisions the county might want to include citizens outside county officials. That could help deflect comments about favoritism by adding the public.

"There is a provision, let's say it is a really big item, where the board may appoint a committee," Smith said. "It is one thing to name a 10-by-12 room, but a multi-story facility you may want a committee."

Keen also suggested that the policy should include a schedule of giving levels.

"There are people, I am sure, and businesses interested in giving, but they really don't know how much to give," Keen said. "I think somewhere in here needs to be a level of gifts, be it endowments."

Under the proposal, commissioners would receive recommendations to name county-owned properties and facilities from the public, staff and related advisory bodies. The final decision would belong to commissioners.

Nominations for naming of county-owned facilities and properties may be submitted to the clerk to the board in writing, accompanied by a justification for the recommended honoree.

All requests would be reviewed by the county attorney, county manager and other appropriate staff before being submitted to commissioners. A committee to review submissions may be established by the commissioners.

Commissioner Jack Best said the nominations should be reviewed by commissioners as well as county staff.

Buildings may be named for individuals or businesses that have made exceptional contributions to Wayne County.