Council Member Says Organizers Might Save, And Hartford Would Have Larger Role In Activities
By JENNA CARLESSO
March 13, 2011
HARTFORD —— Councilman Kenneth Kennedy wants to explore the option of charging flat fees for special events held in the city.
Event organizers are currently required to pay at least half the overall costs associated with their events. The city covers the remainder. Most costs associated with an event are related to police services, council members said.
Under Kennedy's proposal, organizations would pay a flat fee that may differ depending on the size of the event and the number of people estimated to attend.
The fees would likely be less than the prices groups are paying at this point, Kennedy said. In exchange, the city would have more control over details of an event, such as the route a parade might take or the streets that are shut down for certain activities.
"The city would have a more active role than when it has now," Kennedy said.
The goal, he said, is to ease the financial burden on event organizers while ensuring that the city is still collecting money. In the past, Kennedy said, some organizations have been unable to pay their half of the costs, forcing the city to contribute even more money.
"Every year we have groups come forward after getting their bills and say they can't afford it," he said. "It's not unusual for us to give an organization [an additional] $5,000 to $10,000."
By having more control over an event, city officials could work to keep costs down, Kennedy said. For example, he said, it may cost more to close main roads from traffic during an event because a greater number of police officers would have to be on duty than if smaller streets were blocked.
The hours that police officers work during private duty jobs, such as parades, are calculated into their salaries, Kennedy said. That in turn boosts their pensions, he said.
"The city cannot afford that long term," he said.
Kennedy said the city should also consider hiring crossing guards to work during certain events instead of police.
"If we don't get some reasonable expectations and reasonable costs for events, we're going to have to look at ways to cut down those costs," he said.
Kennedy will introduce a resolution at the council's meeting on Monday requesting that an ordinance be drafted allowing the city to charge flat fees for event services. That proposal won't replace the option for groups to pay half of the overall costs, Kennedy said, it will just give organizers another choice.
Councilman Luis Cotto said he supports Kennedy's idea.
"I think establishing a flat fee for these events and having the city pick up the rest of it is a very good idea," he said. "At the end of the day, it's going to force the city to look at what its costs are and [examine] what we really need to make an event happen."
Councilman Robert Painter said he supports getting a conversation started about event fees, but believes the city should charge most groups the full cost of putting on events.
"Why in these hard times are we subsidizing parades?" he said. "We should be charging the full fees for events, except for certain events that bring a substantial amount of business into the city."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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