City Government

AA Faces 300,000% Rent Hike In Historic Fire Station

The local Grapevine Club of Alcoholics Anonymous is facing a 3000% increase in rent for its meeting and clubhouse space at 1518 W. Fort St.
For more than 60 years Boise City has leased the facility for $1 a year. As of May 1, the City is demanding a monthly rent of $300, waiving rent for two summer months ($3,000 a year). Taxpayers have owned the building since 1911 when horses pulled fire engines from the former firehouse. It ceased being a fire station in 1952.
1518 Fort GUARDIAN
Three years ago, the group pulled together $5,000 to assist the city with repairs and agreed to the $300 monthly fee beginning May 1, 2013. It looks like they will have a hard time finding rent money before the May 1 deadline, according to AA spokesman Steve Lewis.

The City has had a “special relationship” with AA which uses the former apparatus floor as a meeting room for recovering drug and alcohol users. Most of those in attendance are referrals from the courts–typically DUI offenders. The second floor is a lounge area with TV and internet access.

A leaking roof and other maintenance issues have put the city in the position of being a “slum lord” in the eyes of some. A GUARDIAN reader was critical of the city saying, “The taxpayers of Boise are subsidizing this private club in a city building.”

True enough, but from a social and political standpoint what are the city fathers and mothers to do? AA obviously offers enough of a benefit to the community to have judges mandate offenders join the program. The city also spends hundreds of thousands on a detox center in conjunction with Ada County. The Grapevine Club is not a detox treatment center, but serves as a meeting place and refuge for those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

On the other hand, is it a good investment to fix up a 102 year old building that has not been used for city services for more than 60 years?

Toss in the historic value of the former fire station which once protected the North End and the question of who should pay arises. Combine that with the proximity to North Junior High and it becomes an issue worthy of community discussion.

Ada Sheriff Gary Raney characterized AA as one of the tools available to treat alcoholics–although not a primary resource. He told the GUARDIAN the so-called “Detox Center” at Allumbaugh House has not worked out, is difficult for coppers to use and the County Jail has reverted to “drunk tank, holding cell” status for people needing to be removed from public areas, but not under arrest.

MATH NOTE: although the rent went up by a factor of 3,000, it’s about a 300,000% rise. (3,000 / 1) X 100.
think of its going from 1 to 10. It’s 10 times higher, but 1000%. A 100 % rise would be from 1 to 2.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. I do not see how the city is “demanding” when this lease was agreed to in 2010. If they didn’t believe they could make this work, they should not signed this lease.

    FYI here is the Lease:

    It looks like AA is mostly self funded through members donations. Local groups are not allowed to accept outside funding.

    This does put them in a Catch-22. They can’t ask members to contribute more and they can’t seek outside donations. For the current situation, the lease may need to change or the AA group will need to find a new home.

    I do think this a valuable program that should be preserved, so hopefully the city does not throw them out right away.

    EDITOR NOTE–Clancy, as always, thanks for the research–and the link. Give us a break on “demanding.” Rent is a DEMAND just like your checking account is a “demand account.” You write a check and DEMAND the bank pays from your account under the terms of your prior agreement. 🙂

  2. “The taxpayers of Boise are subsidizing this private club in a city building.” I think someone either missed the whole idea of what AA is.. or they got up on the wrong side of the bed. If you want to complain about tax payers funding private functions… complain about the trip to Sun Valley. I have never been to an AA meeting but I’ll bet it’s not what you would consider a club event. Maybe good ole Dave could use some of that money for art to fix the roof and keep the rent where it has been. Let’s face it, this place will do ALOT more for the community than some abstract pictures will ever do.

    I would like to hear Gary Complainey speak about what better program he runs than AA and why the detox center has not worked. AA according to medico’s is a primary resource for treating alcoholism.. and it seems that the judges think it’s a good idea too. I would imagine he feels they are ineffectual mainly because he has no control over how they are run. He is a narcissistic megalomaniac who cannot stand to not have total control. The jail is absolutely the wrong place to put these folks the jailers have neither the training nor the temperament to deal with this type of individual. The treatment a detoxer will receive will only lead to events detrimental to those individuals he attempts to house there and the community as a whole.

    EDITOR NOTE–Not to defend the good sheriff, but he certainly didn’t disparage AA and we don’t want to leave that impression. He was indeed critical the “detox center” has not turned out to be what it was touted to be several years ago. We also caution against name calling and conclusions. Your comments serve only to detract from their substance.

  3. The “good” sheriff gave his opinion. I simply opined in a different direction. I will stand by my assessmet of the “good” sheriff,and a quick check of both Webster’s for megalomania, and the DSM-5 for narcissism will show I am almost spot on in this case.

  4. Grumpy ole guy
    Apr 4, 2013, 6:50 pm

    City owned “private club” use – such as – oh, say, the Train Depot, perhaps? Gimme a break, Research has long shown that the AA approach of voluntary participation with others in a plight similar to one’s own is high successful to both the individual(s) and the community(ies) Let us spend the tax dollars to fix the roof and any other structural deficiencies and continue the arrangement of the community benefiting activity.

  5. Grumpy, You don’t sound so grumpy. Very well said, the money spent on the building and giving free rent WILL come back to the community in spades. Kicking these people to the curb, will cost much more in the long run.

  6. Calling AA a “private club” might be technically accurate, but it completely miscolors what we are talking about. It is unfair, and it is a foolish thing to attack. The taxpayer funded shindigs to Sun Valley and the country club-like Train Depot are much better examples of the government funding the accoutrements of luxury. AA, NA, Al-Anon, and the other similar groups are extremely valuable support groups and to the extent that they can be helped, I personally find it to be a very important and good use of money.

  7. I hope they don’t get rid of the Grapevine. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. 16 years without a drink. The club upstairs is for members only, but it is not strictly enforced and the fee is nominal. I hope the city would be willing to re-negotiate. It is an important place for a lot of people. It would be money well spent.

  8. Count me as one more city/county taxpayer who would like to know more about Allumbaugh House “not working out.” (Times are tough, and I’d rather keep my dollars than throw ’em down the drain.)

  9. this is so depressing… i think i need a drink

  10. I think the problem with the Allumbaugh House is easy enough to figure out. They can only take ‘voluntary’ people. So if the police take an extremely intoxicated person to the Allumbaugh House – the person could walk out 5 minutes later. This puts liability on the police, and the Allumbaugh House if something were to happen to that person. The police only put people on a detox hold when they are so intoxicated they aren’t able to provide for their own safety – and when a family member or friend isn’t willing to take the person.

    The problem is still addiction, and it is a choice for a person to want help. Most people have to hit complete rock bottom to want the help, and sometimes they still don’t. We throw money at a lot of programs with good intentions, but human nature still prevails.

  11. I don’t think anyone is critizing AA as a program, that’s not the point of the article. I drive by this building when dropping my kids off at North. It’s in terrible condition with peeling paint and overgrown shrubbery. The city as owner should take better care of the building and the Grapevine Club as renters should keep the grounds neat and tidy. If I were a neighbor, I’d be unhappy with both parties. As an aside, what is the history with the city and this AA group that they’ve been in partnership since 1952? There are lots of AA groups around the area. The article made it sound as if the courts mandate people to attend this particular AA group only. Is that true?

    EDITOR NOTE–Clarification. Lewis said the majority of those attending meetings are referrals from the courts. The same is probably true for any other AA club as well. GUARDIAN story was prompted by a reader complaining about the city subsidizing this particular “private club.” As we noted, there are a multitude of factors involved. We tried for three days to get a response from the city and no one would return our calls.

  12. Fact Finder
    Apr 6, 2013, 11:44 am

    Tom’s description of Raney is perfect! He must know him personally. The narcissism clouds good judgment needed by a county Sheriff. It would be helpful for the Guardian to seek correct information on this topic by educated individuals knowing the dynamics of addiction.

  13. I dont think the city has been in cohoots with this particular group since 1952, I may be wrong. Just fix the building and do the right thing….

  14. There are always people who have some requirement to attend a rehab program. AA is common, but there are some others. While not all AA programs will validate attendance, many do via what are called “green slips.” If I was mayor, I would see if I could get something organized in terms of a cleaning of the outside. That should not be too hard. I am not familiar with the details of the Grapevine club, although I know where it is.

  15. Fact Finder, I do not know him personally but, I have spoken to the man on a couple of occasions though, in a non official manner. I dare not speak for others but the good sheriff is no well thought of in certain circles, and I am talking about people who have met him in his capacity as an administrator not as LE. I will not disparage him further, I will just say thank you for agreeing.

  16. Boise Resident
    Apr 9, 2013, 8:19 pm

    The Grapevine Club building is a sad sad excuse for the local government “doing the right thing.” By keeping the rent obnoxiously low, it has enabled the city to turn a blind eye to the structure, the grounds, and the behavior of the tenants. It’s easily the worst looking building in the surrounding neighborhood/area. I support the cause, just not the current method.

    Unfortunately, being an AA support location, the city is in a position where anything other than renewing the lease would be the viewed as the unethical thing to do. I’m hoping they can make the tough decisions that are necessary for this property.

    EDITOR NOTE–We listed some factors to consider. What are the “tough decisions” in your opinion?

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