One of Newton's biggest events of the year may cease to exist if the city follows through with a proposed policy and fee structure.
“I think it will probably kill our show,” said Dave Baughman, one of the organizers of the annual Newton Downtown Car Show. “It has taken us 13 years to get what we got. To throw it all away … I hope this does not come to pass.”
Baughman estimates that if the fee structure he learned of through a letter from city staff comes to fruition, it would cost the car show an estimated $1,130.
The car show has paid a $20 fee each year for a permit, which would increase to $25. That $20 is all the car show has ever paid to the city during a 12-year run.
The proposed costs include $100 per block for street closures, $7 per per sanitation cart and $5 per picnic table. The draft proposal is documented in a letter, with a copy of the policy, that was provided to the Newton Kansan and to event organizers.
“We are on a tight budget as it is, hunting and scratching for everything we get,” Baughman said. “And what will this do for people who want to start an event — this could be a real roadblock for them. They might just forget it.”
Members of the Department of Public Works sent a letter to event organizers throughout the city with information about a proposed event policy, with an invitation to a stakeholders meeting at 5:30 p.m. July 20 in the commission chambers at Newton City Hall, 201 E. Sixth.
“We have always provided services for community events at little to no charge to the events' organizers,” wrote Suzanne Loomis, city engineer and director of public works in the letter. “We love the fun and exciting events, with old and new traditions, that bring new folks to town and foster community pride for residents. But we also incur costs, whether it's closing a street for a festival or providing picnic tables for a cookout. It's now necessary for us to make policy changes to help cover those costs.”
Event organizers of the annual United Way Chili Cookoff, planned for Sept. 30 of this year, discussed the proposed fee at a board meeting this week. They have been reassured that since they will request street closures and services before the policy would be passed that none of the fees would be assessed this year.
However, they are looking at what it could mean for future years.
“We try and keep our expenses low to maximize on the amount of money that can go to help the community,” said Tina Payne, director of the Harvey County United Way. “There are expenses that come with doing any event. … We have to find in ourselves the ability to see it from their perspective as well.”
The city commission has not been asked to consider the draft policy, thoughthey will be asked to consider the policy later this year. The drafted policy sent out this week was dated June 6.
Payne said both herself and the president of the planning board plan on being at the July 20 meeting.
The United Way has asked for the closure of one block of Sixth Street, along with picnic tables and trash cans from the city for the annual event.
“The city has always been amazing in servicing this event for us,” Payne said. “... The level and excellence of service has been bar none. It has been amazing support all along. We are willing to listen to what those costs are.”
The proposed fee structure also contains a $20 per block fee for the closure of residential streets, a per-foot fee for the use of crowd fencing, water fees, electrical fees, $5 for each street barricade used, $2 for each traffic cone used, $50 per day for message boards, a per foot fee for the use of snow fencing and $5 per day per picnic table.
Also on the list is $150 per hour for site cleanup and $75 per hour for street cleaning. Security would cost $40 an hour for a police officer and $20 per hour for a reserve officer. Fire and EMS standby is listed at $100 per hour.
“As long as we can provide alternate sources for things like fencing and they are not a sole source provider … if we can find a low cost or free way to provide fencing, that would seem like a good middle ground,” Payne said.
It is unclear just how much the cook off would face in fees.
Baughman said there is more at stake than a check written to the city to cover event finances — especially if events begin to cease operations.
“We bring more money into the community than the $1,000 that they want to charge us,” Baughman said. “... There are millions of dollars at stake that are spent in restaurants, hotels and gas.”