City bags plan to raise meter fees for events Organizers of parades, festivals could save thousands

February 26, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Baltimore is scaling back the fee it charges for "bagging" parking meters for parades, outdoor markets and festivals -- saving organizers of the popular events up to thousands of dollars.

The city had planned to charge $15 per meter per day for each parking slot that was covered with a cloth bag -- one part of a controversial package of fees the city imposed this year to defray the cost of municipal services needed to stage the events.

But officials told a City Council hearing yesterday that they had decided instead to charge nonprofit groups only for the potential revenue that the city would lose from having the meters covered, plus the cost of labor for having workers bag the slots.

The new policy would reduce the annual cost to the community-sponsored Waverly Market -- which is held on city streets and is open Saturdays from late spring through early winter -- from an estimated $18,700 to $780, the officials said.

One-day events also would realize significant savings. Charges for Hampden's annual May Fest would be reduced from more than $1,000 to $200, while those for Federal Hill's South of the Border Fun Fest would be cut from $1,400 to $100, said Tony Wallnofer, assistant chief of the city's traffic division.

Also, Mr. Wallnofer said, officials who decide how much each event will cost promised to respond more quickly to groups that need to know the cost of staging their events.

Also, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke plans to establish a group to advise the Board of Estimates on setting fees charged to community events, said mayoral aide Richard Krummerich.

The officials announced the policy change at a council hearing on two bills concerning the new fees sponsored by Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd.

One measure would freeze at 1992 levels the amount of money the city charged the six markets run by community groups.

The other bill calls for the creation of an advisory group similar to the one Mr. Krummerich said the mayor planned to establish.

The city said last year it was establishing the new fees because it could no longer afford to provide services without being compensated.

But community groups warned that the added costs could cause them to cancel the events they said added much to the spirit of the city.

Last month, the annual March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon said it was moving to the suburbs after 22 years in the city because the new fees would have consumed one-fifth of the money it expected to raise.

At yesterday's hearing, organizers of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade down Charles Street said they were on the verge of following the March of Dimes event out of town until a

last-minute meeting with city officials result

ed in an unspecified reduction in fees.

Parade organizers said they had budgeted $5,000 for the fees but that they were initially told they would have to pay more than twice that amount for traffic control, police protection and cleanup.

"We cannot afford substantial sums" in fees, said Michael Lehane, one of the directors of the parade.

Mr. Lehane said the parade has an annual budget of $45,000.

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