Last year’s flap over city funding of special events has been resolved with new procedures intended to prevent ugly surprises for community groups.
The city council voted unanimously last week to revise its policies and procedures for processing special events, including the establishment of administrative fees intended to recoup some of the city’s cost to review applications.
Under the new policy, those wishing to hold a special event in the city will have to pay a $200 non-refundable deposit, rather than the current $50 fee, to have their permit processed. Additionally, they will have to start the application process sooner so it is completed at least 90 days before the date of the event.
On the flip side, the city’s public works staff will set up traffic control for events that require street closures, relieving event volunteers and workers from that task. Additionally, the new policy clearly sets out what information is needed of event organizers. Also, the city will determine which events are eligible for co-sponsporship from the city well in advance of the events.
The matter of special events, namely how the city processed applications for them and whether it would co-sponsor some of them, was brought up last October by Craig Smith, executive director of the Downtown Association.
He protested that the council’s decision to remove $30,000 from the city’s budget to subsidize special events would hurt the association’s efforts to put on popular attractions like the Christmas Parade.
At the council’s direction, the city’s community outreach coordinator, Barry Martin, set to work along with other staff to address Smith’s concerns.
Under the new procedures, the city, which restored the $30,000 special event budget last year, will determine which events will get city funding prior to the start of each fiscal year. A team will assemble at the start of each calendar year to review applications from event organizers requesting city funding.
Martin intends to have the team recommend to the council which events should get funding by mid-May, when the city is going through the budgeting process.
“One of the greatest concerns of applicants was the city taking away funding,” Martin told the council. “That was seen as a major issue and was going to have a major impact on the organizations’ ability to be able to put on the events.”
Martin said the city will publicize the availability of funds each year so event organizers know to apply for subsidies. The new policies and procedures are also intended to smooth the application process.
“We had a few issues we wanted to address,” Martin told the council. “A lot of staff time was being spent processing special event applications and in some cases, applicants thought the process was less than customer friendly, and at times, illogical and inflexible.”
Martin said there is now a strict application timeline that applicants must adhere to in order to avoid hefty late fees. In the past, applications have been filed at the eleventh hour, causing city staff to rush and costs to the city to rise.
“We wanted to make sure there were procedures for the review of the permits, the processing of the permits, then follow up so we could evaluate events after they occur,” Martin said.
The amount of staff time required to process applications is expected to drop and meetings have been reduced from two per week to once per month, a city staff report said.
Public works staff time may increase because city employees will now be used to set up traffic controls. However, because public works staff are already used to monitor and correct improper traffic control set-ups by event organizers, less time may be spent, the staff report said.
Smith told the council he is happy the city is again offering funding for special events and said he believes the new policies and procedures will benefit groups, many of them nonprofit, that sponsor activities throughout the year.
“This is an extremely thorough document and it’s well done,” Smith said, adding that the new procedures are black and white and unambiguous.