The City Hall auditorium is about to become easier for local schools to use.
City Council's Administration and Finance Committee has voted to change the rental policy of the Nicholas J. Ross Auditorium.
The changes include eliminating hourly rental fees for any public or private school in Haverhill, while also reducing the associated custodial fees to $30 per hour and $45 per hour for overtime.
The committee also voted to remove mandatory fire and police details for events, instead leaving those details up to the opinion of the police and fire chiefs.
The subcommittee — consisting of councilors Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien, William Macek, Colin LePage and Michael Young — agreed more schools should have the opportunity to use the theater without the costly regulations.
"We have this great city building that should be used ...," Young said.
Current regulations require renters expecting large crowds to pay for police and fire details at a cost of $38 and $36 per hour, respectively, for a minimum of four hours. Depending upon the renter's status as either a civic or non-civic group, additional charges for city janitors and deposits may apply.
The ordinance changes must be approved by the entire council before they go into effect.
Despite allowing the chiefs to waive the police and fire details as they see fit, Daly O'Brien noted that the lack of modern safety features such as sprinklers will still require details for certain performances.
"It's not a modern building," she said.
The costs of renting the auditorium came into the spotlight last May when Bradford Christian Academy wanted to present the play "West Side Story" in the auditorium. The private school expected to pay close to $4,000, but the council voted to waive the fees, while police and firefighters donated their time.
Fire Chief Richard Borden has said a new fire code law passed last year mandates a firefighter detail for any gathering larger than 250 people.
The law was created following a 2003 night club fire in West Warick, R.I., that killed more than 100 people.
Named after former City Messenger Nicholas Ross, the City Hall auditorium also lacks modern lighting systems and back rooms.
Matter Perusse, director of Bradford Christian Academy's theater arts program, said the auditorium served his young actors well.
"We loved the space," he said. "The acoustics in there are great. I hope the city realizes the treasure they have there.''