The hot topic at the Newton City Commission meeting Tuesday was event fees — something that has been cussed and discussed for about a month after a letter from city staff went out to event organizers showing a proposed fee schedule.
For some events, that proposal could mean more than $1,000 in fees. Currently, those events pay a $20 application fee for the closure of streets.
There was a meeting last week with even organizers and city staff to talk about the possible fees.
"There was some initial panic as to what this might do," Myers said. "... A lot of these events are really, sincerely, conducted on a shoestring and there is not a lot of flexibility. ... We don't want to take too many steps to discourage these kinds of events."
Myers circulated a proposal for fee waivers at the Tuesday night city meeting, one that would soften the blow of the proposed fee schedule. There was no decision made Tuesday, though the commission voiced support for what was brought forward.
"Basically, we are not going to charge for downtown events," said Glen Davis, city commissioner.
"The exception to that would be if alcohol is served," added Barth Hague, mayor.
A decision is expected next month.
"I don't see that this would create major changes for very many events," Myers said.
Myers proposal first defines events in two categories — community and private events. For community events, all charges would be waived except for fencing and security for areas in which alcohol is served, for licensing for alcohol service or an area where admission fee is being charged. The proposal would also charge for dedicated police and/or Fire/EMS service.
A community event is defined as "including community festivals, concerts and similar event which are open to general public, with our without an entry fee; charitable fund-raising events; and events conducted by local governmental entities."
A private event is defined as "business events for employees and/or customers; block parties; family reunions; and other events for a specific set of invited guests."
"Sitting here today, for private parties, I think people should pay the costs of the city," said David Nygaard, commissioner. "With the downtown events, this is a cost of doing business. This is a cost to bringing people downtown and I think we should pay that."
Myers said he believes it is "appropriate" to charge events that need to control where people go — whether that be because of ticket fees or the presences of a beer garden. He also said dedicated presence of police or first responders would be charged.
"That often means we are paying officer overtime, and that is a direct expense by the city," Myers said.
In other business the commission:
• Approved a budget for publication. A public hearing for the budget will be Aug. 8, pending publication of a notice of hearing in The Newton Kansan. The publication of the budget sets a limit of what can be spent — the budget can be cut, but not increased, from those amounts. The proposed budget contains a 3.43 mill levy increase.
• Approved closure of the Athletic Park Circle from 3 to 9 p.m. Aug. 18 to 20 for the Sand Creek Benefit Volleyball Tournament.
• Approved the closure of the Athletic Park Circle and Fifth Street Bridge from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 19 for the Sand Creek Cardboard Regatta.
• Approved the closure of First Street from Beverly to Grandview and Grandview to First to the Athletic Park Entrance from 4:50 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 29 for a fall homecoming parade.
• Approved the closure of the 100 block of West Sixth from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 30 for the annual United Way Chili Cook-off. The commission also approved a temporary alcoholic liquor permit for the cook-off.
• Recognized Val Gleason, president and CEO of Newton Medical Center, and Newton native Laura Ice of Textron Financial Corporation as recipients of the 2017 Women In Business Awards by the Wichita Business Journal.
• Heard a presentation about domestic violence by Brandon Deck of the Newton Police Department and Terri Headrick, victim/witness coordinator for the city of Newton.
• Heard a quarterly report by Beth Shelton, director of Harvey County Economic Development.
• Approved a notice of hearing for Autumn Glen Fourth Addition sewer improvements, extending sewer to eight lots in the addition.
• Accepted a recommendation from the Police Facility Task Force to renovate the current Law Enforcement Center located on Seventh Street and connected to both the Harvey County Courthouse and Harvey County Detentions Center. The commission discussed meeting with the county commission in August to discuss the proposal.
• Approved a real estate agreement with Standridge Corp. Standridge is planning to expand a manufacturing facility in the Newton Industrial Park within the next four years. Standridge Color Corporation is expected to build a 30,000 square foot facility in the industrial park. Standridge, based in Georgia, is a plastic fabrication company. The company agreed to pay $54,720 for three lots to build a manufacturing facility.
• Approved improvements to the Warkentin House. City staff has budgeted $100,000 for renovations including painting of the house. The Warkentin board has approved a donation of about $10,000 towards the project.
• Met in executive session to meet with city legal counsel.