The Camden Opera House will offer deeply discounted multi-day conference fees to qualified non-profit organizations in 2018.

The Select Board decision on discounts follows PopTech's announcement at the end of October that its annual conference will be held at Point Lookout in Northport in 2018, for the first time in its 21 year history. The board voted to approve Opera House fees Jan. 9.

Conference fees became a focal point during several board discussions in December. Initially board members disagreed over increasing discounts for non-profit conferences, but ultimately voted to lower fees to retain existing conferences, and position the Opera House to attract new multi-day events.

In 2017, conference revenue totaled $24,000, according to Opera House Manager Kerry Hadley. In 2017, conferences were given a non-profit discount, and an additional 10 percent discount for multi-day events.

On Jan. 9, the Select Board voted to approve a flat rate of $3,000 for the Camden Conference and $5,000 for the Camden International Film Festival, for the 2018-19 fiscal year beginning July 1.

Board members also approved a policy, recommended by the Opera House Committee, that sets up a new process for discounts for  multi-day conferences hosted by non-profit organizations. Such events will be obtain to obtain a discount of 25 percent of the non-profit base room rental fees by applying to the town of Camden for a sponsorship.

A new Town of Camden Sponsorship Application states that reduced rental rates are offered because "the town of Camden values the vitality and economic impact that cultural evetns, conferences and multi-day festivals bring to our community."

To qualify for a sponsorship, conferences have to: run for two or three consecutive days, attract 300 or more attendees daily, maintain a year-round presence in the Midcoast community, and be organized by a non-profit. Organizations have to provide documentation including their nonprofit identification number, 501 c(3) status, and an annual report. The existing conferences, Camden Conference and Camden International Film Festival, meet the new criteria.

A final criteria is that "at least 15 percent of tickets are accessible to Midcoast residents at a reasonable cost." Select Board members initiated the idea that deeply discounted conference rates be tied to increased accessibility for area residents. During board discussions, CIFF was termed the most accessible conference, because it offers affordable ticket prices for individual films. Board members also noted scholarships the Camden Conference offers for college and high school students.

Applications for town sponsorship are requested four months prior to the event.