City council revisits special events fees

MANISTEE — Manistee City Council will consider a policy charging organizations for city services associated with special events held in Manistee.

At a work session on Tuesday council revisited the issue, which previously prompted plenty of discussion from the public and council members at a Jan. 8 work session.

The original fee structure proposed by city staff on Jan. 8 was scrapped, and a new one was presented on Tuesday.

A general consensus was held for city staff to bring back a policy that could be approved at a future meeting. An official vote cannot be made at a work session.

LENGTHY HISTORY

The possibility of administering fees for city services to special events has been ongoing since last year.

On June 12, 2018, council held a general consensus at a work session to administrate a fees and city services policy, which would be implemented on Jan. 1, 2019.

City staff was directed to create a special event request form, and track potential costs for impacted groups. Each event would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The topic resurfaced at a work session on Jan. 8.

Council chambers were packed with local organizations that would be heavily impacted by the fees, most of which were worried about financial issues. Many council members were also uneasy about the fees.

In 2018, Jeff Mikula, Department of Public Works (DPW) director, and Manistee Department of Public Safety director Tim Kozal, were charged with creating an event request form outlining the fees.

Fees listed on the form included items like barricades at $4 each, wood fencing for $90 per 50 feet, trash cans at $5 each, and even labor costs per police officer at $38.64 per hour and $50.61 per hour for overtime.

“A lot of the items are small dollar amounts,” said Mikula, on Jan. 8. “It really does not pay for the (items) itself, but more the labor and the time that it takes for staff to move things around, put them out and take them back.”

Forms were sent out to local organizations that would have been impacted. Mikula said he spoke with various groups that indicated the fees could alter or even cause the cancellation of their events.

As a result, a general consensus was held on Jan. 8 to not charge fees to any special events held in 2019. Staff was also directed to come back with a new policy.

LEGAL QUESTIONS

In recent years, the city has not administrated fees for city services to special events.

George Saylor, city attorney, said municipal spending rules, by statute, indicate city expenditures for special events held during certain times of the year such as holidays is legal.

However, there is a grey area when it comes to expenditures made outside of those types of special events. Despite this, Saylor said some municipalities take the stance that special events improve the community.

“Some municipalities take the position where your money is being spent to promote the community and what is going on in the community — that should be an appropriate expenditure,” he explained to council.

While several council members did not want to administer fees at all, there were lingering concerns about the so-called “grey area” with municipal expenditures.

NEW POSSIBILITIES 

At the work session on Tuesday, a new fee structure was proposed to council.

“Council asked staff to bring back a recommendation for charging for special events that meets the lawful expenditures or public funds standard and does not place an undue financial hardship on the organizations that sponsor the events,” stated Thad Taylor, in a memo to council.

Council member Dale Cooper said he felt the new fee structure was reasonable. Council member Mick Szymanski echoed Cooper.

“I was very impressed with the way that it was written,” Szymanski said. “It covers all of the legal aspects that we were concerned about without overwhelming the event.”

The fee structure proposed on Tuesday is as follows:

Parades sponsored by a nonprofit

• Homecoming parades — no cost;

• Parades that occur on days allowing for legal expenditures of public funds (i.e. holidays) — no cost; and

• Parades occurring on days that do not allow for legal expenditures of public funds — $100 (per day).

Parades sponsored by a for-profit organization 

• True cost of services provided by the city.

Events sponsored by a nonprofit

• Events occurring on days that allow for legal expenditures of public funds — no cost; and

• Events that occur on days that do not allow for legal expenditures of public funds — $100 (per day).

Events sponsored by a for-profit organization 

• True cost of services provided by the city.

Mayor Roger Zielinski said his concern is following municipal spending rules, while making sure organizations are still able to hold events.

“I do not think there’s a council member here that would want to charge for services,” he said. “But I think we have to do our due diligence and be mindful of the taxpayer dollar.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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