After public outcry from St. Armands Circle and downtown event organizers, city commissioners voted Monday to delay implementation of a new special-event fee schedule that those organizers said would put their events at risk.
“I’m not just threatening that these events will go away — they will go away,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, which organizes 20 annual events on the Circle.
At the meeting, the City Commission decided to discuss the fees further with Corrigan and downtown event organizers. It will then hold another hearing on the issue in December and possibly implement the fees in January.
Corrigan said with the new fees, her group would be charged between $15,000 and $20,000 for the use of St. Armands Circle Park.
“We pay to keep the park clean, and now they’re going to charge us to use it,” she said.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta had hoped to recoup about $40,000 of the more than $200,000 he said it costs in man hours to process special-event permits each year, which he said was just 10% of what the county charges.
“Those costs don’t go away,” he said. “We had to choose — do we charge the event organizer or do we charge the taxpayer?”
Bartolotta commissioned an analysis that estimated the St. Armands Circle Association would only incur costs of about $10,000 to put on its events.
But Corrigan said that estimate did not include all of her events and did not account for the full setup and tear down time.
“The city manager is not giving the commission all the facts,” she said. “He’s trying to snow them.”
Bartolotta proposed exempting 10 events each year from paying the fees. But Corrigan suggested only charging the out-of-town event organizers who don’t pay local taxes and take their profits with them.
“I understand they’re grasping at straws, looking for revenue,” said Corrigan. “Charge the (event organizers) coming from out of town to use the parks. Don’t charge us.”
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