We received 128 responses to our online poll question: "Should the town-owned Camden Opera House provide discounts to groups such as PopTech, CIFF and The Camden Conference?"

See attached chart for how they voted.

The poll was prompted by discussion from the select board concerning fees and rates for the Opera House. The fact that PopTech is moving out of Camden to Point Lookout in Northport in 2018 has raised concern. The town is looking for a way to lure the event back for 2019.

We also received the following comments from those taking the poll (two comments were omitted as being unclear/irrelevant to the topic):

They should offer larger discounts to local civic groups! One of the primary reasons that the Camden Civic Theater (LONGTIME stewards of the opera house!) went defunct is that they could no longer afford to rent the space they called home for 40 years!

IF you want them to stay in Camden. Would think it would make a big difference to all Camden businesses.

With all the conveniences (i.e., restaurants, shops, lodging, harbor activities, etc.) found within a short walking distance to and from the Opera House in the beautiful downtown of Camden, there should not be a need to discount any of these conference groups. If they (e.g., POPTech) believe they can have their meetings in other remote and inconvenient locations (e.g., Northport) and still draw the same number of participants, let them do so. They will soon learn by their mistakes. Location, location, location is key to having a successful conference.

The COH is idle most days while the Rockport OH is a vibrant center of the community. We need to be creative to increase use of this gem.

No races to the bottom.

Discount should depend on number of days of rental, frequncy, ie, multi year contract, demand at time they want to rent. You should have standard rates, but be able to adjust depending on other factors. Know your costs and go from there.

The larger positive economic impact on the community should be factored in.

A bigger discount if long-term contracts are in place

It helps the merchants!!

The Opera House already charges a reduced nonprofit rate. The Opera House's budget and corresponding staffing has always been tied to offsetting revenues, and staffing only increased if revenues show an increase. If town decides to increase large events and not charge the events themselves for it, then the town will have to use more taxpayer dollars to provide the resources (mostly staffing) to support these events. The largest line in the budget is for staffing, as events draw heavily on staffing resources. The Opera House has the smallest staff as it is of any area venue, and half of what they do is on behalf of town and not visible to the public. Nonprofits offered a reduction should definitely submit an 990 in order to learn if the reduction is even necessary or merited.

The town should not own an opera house.

Local organizations who put on shows should receive the biggest and most significant discount. For years the Camden Civic Theater, whose home it was, was rightly not charged at all. When they started to have to pay what all groups do it pretty much wiped them out of existence. Local dance and music groups putting on performances that are geared for families have to charge a ticket fee to cover costs that is often more than families can pay. These local nonprofits should really be getting a break so they can continue to thrive, and every local can afford to attend.

They should have offered discounts to Camden Civic Theater! Then we would still have a community theater group!

These organizations provide economic impact in multiple parts of our town–accommodations, restaurants, businesses, etc. Their contributions related to these three organizations equal a vast amount of more revenue to our town than any moderate reduction of Opera House cost would contribute to the town's expense structure. Plus, attracting more conferences and meetings to our town is part of the Comprehensive Plan that was just approved–we have to be competitive to new organizations if we are going to achieve this goal.

The town and the Chamber can all contribute to keeping these conferences in town, with special lodging and dining and venue discounts. I doubt that PopTech attendees will be happy at Point Lookout -they like to be in town, so I hope that helps a little too.

The taxpayers already subsidize the operation of the Camden Opera House. Providing further sponsorships or discounts to conferences obligates homeowners in Camden to make additional donations to these organizations at the expense of spending those dollars on other Town projects that might benefit more residents and last longer than a 2 or three-day conference.

They make a huge impact on the local economy

Tough questions because so vague. But two principals rule, I think. Opera House, like a business, should have freedom to negotiate, because sometimes a reduced fee is better than no income for same period. Also, events like PopTech are good for Camden in many other ways besides Opera House fees.

I think it is better to offer discounts to keep business rather than not offer discounts and lose significant income.

These conferences provide vital engaged community events..they should be encouraged.

Each of these organizations has a major positive financial impact on Camden. An economic study done by the Camden Conference showed almost $1 million annual impact. Why risk losing these?

These groups bring a cache to Camden and need to be encouraged to stay in Camden. They are not in business to make money but to offer cultural, political, technological ideas to the public. We are fortunate that they chose Camden; let's provide a friendly, hospitable and welcoming environment.

These events raise the profile of Camden and Midcoast as a vibrant, forward-thinking area. Some of us retired here when we saw these examples of the high level discussions and arts supporting residents in this area. We have not been disappointed! Encourage more such programs that attract spending here and new audiences to the area.