Parades, festivals facing police and sanitation fees

December 24, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved a controversial proposal by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to charge fees for sanitation, police and other services the city provides for the hundreds of festivals, parades and foot races held each year.

Mr. Schmoke said the city can no longer afford to provide the services from the Police Department, Department of Recreation and Parks and Department of Public Works without attempting to offset the costs.

But others, such as event organizers and Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who voted against the plan yesterday, maintain that the new fees may kill off many of the neighborhood events and festivals that have become synonymous with the city.

"The message we want to send is, 'Have festivals, have street fairs, have celebrations,' " Mrs. Clarke said. "We don't want to send the message that we can't afford to be Baltimore anymore.

"You don't want to turn off the lights," she said.

But the mayor diplomatically defended the new fee structure, which would be implemented early next year. "Your message is the right message to send. I just want to let them know there is a cost associated with these things . . . for the city," Mr. Schmoke said. "I don't think we're going to lose anything because of this."

Nevertheless, he agreed to a proposal by Mrs. Clarke to allow neighborhood groups to appeal the costs through the city's Events Committee, in his office. The new fees, he said, would act as a ceiling.

"It's too broad-brush an approach," Mrs. Clarke said after the meeting. "I believe the mayor's intention is to bring in a fair return from some of those larger organizations that can afford to pay a higher portion of the city's actual cost.

"But what happens is that every little neighborhood and church group that wants to have a festival or a parade gets hit with the same fees," she said.

Under the plan:

* Processing an application for an event at a site overseen by Recreation and Parks would cost $25, with a $10 fee for changing the time or date after applying. The use of park pavilions would cost $50; cost of two employees for cleanup would be $125.

* The fee for a Public Works special event permit would increase from $15 to $20. Cleaning up and setting up equipment at a non-park site by public works employees would also be charged for at an hourly rate.

* The Police Department -- which now does not charge for assigning officers to an event for security, crowd control or traffic control -- would charge fees at an hourly rate, based on the number of police officers required.

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