Officials have voted to boot an Alcoholics Anonymous group from its meeting location after more than 40 years.
The Sunday night AA group has been meeting for four decades at the Lady Lake Community Building on Guava Street.
However, this week the Lady Lake Commission voted 3-2 to end its longstanding relationship with the Sunday night AA group.
The community building was recently remodeled and the commission agreed to begin collecting higher fees from groups wanting to use the building. Town officials said they hope to “break even” on some of the costs of renovating and running the community building.
However, the fees were immediately waived for some organizations that have longstanding relationships with the town.
The AA was not granted an exemption.
A Villager who helps lead the AA group said he was shocked to receive a letter from the town indicating the group will be charged $20 per hour for a four-hour minimum, for a total of $80 every Sunday night. That would cost the AA group more than $4,000 per year. Members usually donate a $1 at meetings to meet nominal expenses. The Sunday night AA group had been paying $10 per week.
“Decades ago, we were granted that special rate so that Alcoholics Anonymous could meet and help the community. These Alcoholics Anonymous meetings help citizens of the community get and stay sober. Addiction is a huge problem in society and in our community. The Town of Lady Lake lets Alcoholics Anonymous use this building at a nominal rate to help its citizens with addiction problems. These meetings have saved countless lives,” said the Villager, who Villages-News.com has agreed not to name due to the anonymous nature of the organization.
“Other communities in the area (and around the globe) support Alcoholics Anonymous groups. The Town of Leesburg for example leases Alcoholics Anonymous an entire building called The Last House on the Block at 1339 Neely Drive, Leesburg for $10 a year for meetings,” he added.
In addition, the town wants to start enforcing a rule that one group could not repeatedly use the same meeting spot on successive Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. However, the Villager representing AA said when there has been a conflict, which has rarely happened, the group has surrendered the location and met elsewhere.
The AA group has appealed several times to the commissioners, but Monday night commissioners voted 3-2 against the group.
The commissioners clearly agonized over the vote and all said they support the concept of AA.
Commissioner Ed Freeman argued that the town’s programs don’t “break even.” He pointed to Little League and other programs that are heavily supported by the town with its facilities.
Freeman was joined by Commissioner Paul Hannan in support of the plea from AA. Mayor James Rietz and Commissioners Ruth Kussard and John Gourlie voted the in majority.