Your message has multiple points and themes, I’ll address the main ones in turn:
You raise members storage as a reason to pause attracting new members, sadly members storage needs continuous work to audit and enforce as multiple people have taken up multiple spaces. Whether we have ten members or a thousand, it needs constant auditing. This is not a barrier to wishing to expand. Let’s break discussion of that to a separate thread.
You mention members paying a single membership fee and everything else is free. Paying a single membership fee to cover most things is indeed exactly how the space has operated since it started. As it’s not immediately clear in your message, I’ll point out that I’m not expecting people to pay the same amount. I’m asking people to ask themselves if what they’re paying is fair, if they’re under the recommended amount.
I’m also not suggesting that everything else is free. You’ve misinterpreted my words there. Plenty of things like materials are rightly charged for, as they’re taken out of the space and no longer benefit others once used. But tool use is generally included - that’s exactly what the membership fee is for.
The notable single exception is the laser, and this is an exception due to the high cost of the machine, tubes and parts that wear out. There could be scope to reduce this cost and a more efficient pricing structure was temporarily in use with the laser timer. Billing of the laser should be discussed on a separate thread but could be worth discussing.
You indicate that the current setup is unfair. It’s not unfair to give complete access to tools regardless of your membership amount. We have never discriminated based on what people can afford. The point of the space is that those who can pay do, and those who can’t are still welcome. Tools are free at point of use. If you’re arguing the laser should also be free for use, let’s break this out to another thread, it’s an interesting topic and one that will be good to discuss.
Making everything chargeable up front is logistically difficult, as you note, the system has been talked about for years but never happened, it’s also financially not worth it - making the devices costs more than what it is worth in savings. I get the appeal of tools being fon controlled, but this only makes it worth the expense when viewed from a H&S angle, to which the padlocks satisfy the extremely dangerous and misused tools.
We are also a trust based community group and this trust can been eroded from two fronts:
• By consequence of actions - such as people abusing tools and leaving damage and mess
• By intentional choice - such as people not wanting to trust the vast majority to do the right thing
The one thing it seems we can agree on is finding out where the power is going. Understanding power usage and logging this in a spreadsheet would be useful. Watts used can easily be calculated into kWh, and thus unit cost per hour. We can get a picture then of how much things like 3d printers, laser, plantspace, fridges, the lab, etc cost.
At this point we must have a sense of balance - we don’t need to know how long every tool is in use for over a typical week, and we won’t actually achieve anything if it just involves saving milliamps. Just targeting the high level stuff (such as things requiring heat) will be enough. If we obsess over getting to usage 0, all fun and joy of the space will be removed. You’ll also quickly find its undone if what is done is something people value.
The only occasion to try and get to 0 is to check for abstraction of electricity, by turning off the main breakers and noting any power use on the upstairs meter. Otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad and go to extreme lengths for very little actual outcome.
It also sounds like there’s possibly an ideological difference here above all else - the space is and always has been largely a NHS/socialist model, whereas from your message I see a more neoliberal desire to bill people exactly for what they use and not a penny more. From what I gather, you seem to find the idea of paying into the space regardless of metered use unfair, but that’s how we have always operated. We won’t suddenly “solve” our finances by penny pinching for individual tool use.
The model is simple - If you don’t come in much, or don’t value the space so much, pay less. If you are in regularly doing paid projects, you’re expected to chip in more. If you care about the space you’ll pay what you think it’s worth to you and what you can afford. Completely changing how we use tools isn’t the answer. Dealing with heaters, lights, and being aware and transparent of where power goes is all we nees to do.
It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.