Panel tells Annapolis to tighten event fees

Change suggested to offset expense of police, city services

April 30, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

To offset thousands of dollars in costs for police and other services, Annapolis should toughen requirements for block parties, fun runs and other events staged in the city, a mayoral committee recommended yesterday.

The committee urged that all nonprofit groups be required to foot half of Annapolis' event-related costs and that city officials re-examine their stadium parking agreement with the Naval Academy Athletic Association.

"This sets down a policy, which we really don't have now," said former Annapolis City Administrator John L. Prehn Jr., who chaired the committee. "In the past, [fee] waivers have been granted by people in authority, and it was felt that if we have a straightforward policy, we don't have to worry about people chiming in and saying, `Well, so-and-so got this done. Why can't I get this done?' "

In December, Mayor Dean L. Johnson assembled the committee of 13 residents, community leaders and event organizers and asked members to develop a plan for the city council to assert control over the large number of boat shows, fun runs and block parties held every year.

The city has never had a consistent formula for determining which events are granted permits and which organizers should help defray costs of providing event-related police and trash removal services.

In a 24-page report released yesterday, the committee details its analysis of 118 events in Annapolis in 1998, breaking them into such categories as "First Amendment" and "Not for Profit." It lists how much the city paid to provide services for each event, and how much it was reimbursed.

The city provided almost $341,000 worth of services during last year's events and recouped $87,353 of that, according to the report.

The committee suggests setting a nonrefundable $25 fee for all permit applications -- which currently are free -- and establishing nine city-sponsored events that would be exempt from the application process. Those events include the Fourth of July fireworks and parade, U.S. Naval Academy pep rallies, pre-football game marches and the Memorial Day parade.

All annual events that cost the city more than $5,000 and charge an admission fee should negotiate an agreement or lease with the city, the report says. Organizers of events not protected by the First Amendment would be required to obtain liability insurance to get a permit.

The report recommends fees that organizers of events not protected by the First Amendment should pay. For-profit groups would pay 100 percent of city service costs, governmental agencies and nonprofit groups would pay 50 percent, and community and resident groups would pay 50 percent of costs above $300.

Alderman Herb McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican who proposed a bill in February to charge event organizers for city facilities and services, said he was happy with the committee's report. But he said the city council should have a say in which events the city funds, even if it's only 50 percent.

"Philosophically, unless the city votes to allow that to happen, I don't think any of it should be automatic," McMillan said. "I don't believe just because you're a nonprofit you're entitled to have the city pay half."

The report also looks into the city's relations with the Naval Academy Athletic Association (NAAA). Committee members were "troubled" that Annapolis officials did not know how much the city pays for the shuttle bus service to and from the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot, or how much revenue the facility brings to the NAAA, which manages it.

Jack Lengyel, NAAA director, declined to comment on the report until he reads it.

"I'm surprised that we did not have an opportunity to discuss this with the committee before they released the report," Lengyel said. "I wish they would have called us so that we could clarify it. We would have solved that in 24 hours."

Prehn emphasized that the purpose of a written agreement is not to request monetary compensation from the NAAA and that the city does not want to "jeopardize" its relationship with the Naval Academy.

City council members will review the report and decide whether to introduce ordinances to adopt the committee's recommendations.

W. Minor Carter, president of the Ward 1 Residents Association and a member of the committee, said the findings are "a significant first step."

"But there are still a number of very hard issues that need to be addressed, such as what events we would like to have and how many. That's still an open question," Carter said.

"One of the important things for downtown residents is quality of life and the underlying problem we have downtown is parking. If we could resolve the [congested] parking situation, that would take away a great deal of the pain or irritation of having events downtown."

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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