The City of Warren is taking steps to standardize how special events are held with a new ordinance formalizing the approval process.
Due to mounting numbers of special events in the city, and associated costs resulting from them, the city formed a committee to review the rules and costs associated with special events and develop an ordinance to encompass special event planning and execution.
Over the few months, the committee Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Strandburg, Executive Secretary Teena Leary, Assistant to the Department of Public Works Director Vincent Massa, Department of Public Works employee Shawn Tutmaher, Fire Chief Sam Pascuzzi, Police Community Service Officer Brandon Deppen and Assistant City Manager Mary Ann Nau worked out the rules which will govern special events.
"Anyone who has done a special event with us in the past, it's very much the same," Deppen said. "The application process is just more formalized."
In the past, anyone wishing to hold a special event in the city approached city council for approval and, if granted, city employees were expected to ensure the event went smoothly. Under the new ordinance, city departments will have the opportunity to work with event organizers from the start.
"Departments can review and prepare for events," Deppen said. "It lets organizers have a clear idea what the city can provide and allows departments to have a clear idea what organizers want."
Communication between organizers and city employees is a key component of the new regulations. A special event review committee, assigned by the city manager, will work on the city's behalf to provide that communication.
The process starts when event organizers contact the city to obtain and submit a special event application, with a site map, between two years and 90 days prior to the planned event. There is a non-refundable application fee of $100.
From there, a pre-event meeting between organizers and the special event review committee will be scheduled, if required. The meeting will be scheduled at least 60 days prior to the event.
If city streets need to be closed or state roads utilized for the event a form must be submitted to PennDOT at least eight weeks prior to the event.
Insurance for the event, naming the city as co-insured, must be obtained for an event to be approved and a certificate of insurance submitted to the city a minimum of 45 days prior to the event.
Any required permits must be submitted to the city at least 45 days prior to an event as well.
Payment of permit and use fees, security deposits and 50 percent of the estimated cost of the event to the city must be paid 45 days prior to the event.
No less than 30 days prior to the event, the special event review committee will make a final approval determination and issue a final authorization letter to the organizer.
One to two weeks prior to the event, a pre-event site walk-through may be required with any city departments involved.
After the event, organizers will perform clean-up work and remove event equipment within 24 hours or the start of the next business day. A post-event site walk-through will be conducted by the city one to two days after the event. If needed, a post-event meeting will be held seven to 30 days later.
The city will bill organizers for city services used by the event, beyond those services the city would be paying for regardless of whether the event was being held, between 30 and 45 days after the event.
Organizers are expected to pay in full their bill to the city within 30 days of the invoice date.
According to Deppen, the city will provide event organizers with a copy of all event requirements and regulations when the application process begins. Not all requirements, however, will apply to all events.
"If you're doing a run or something and you're starting on private property, we probably won't require you to get porta-johns," Deppen said. "We aren't concerned about the activities on private property. We're worried about using city property."
One major change to how special events will be handled will be billing for increased costs to city departments. Increasing numbers of special events have led to increasing costs incurred to the city to provide service for those events, especially overtime for city employees.
After a spike of more than $16,000 in city overtime from special events in 2011, the city incurred $13, 280.27 in event overtime in 2012.
Annual Fourth of July events incur approximately $6,188; the Gus Macker Tournament incurs approximately $2,500; Ribfest with a concert incurs approximately $3,654 and without one still incurs approximately $224; the Christmas Walk incurs approximately $696 and an average run costs the city $131 in overtime.
Due to increasing budget constraints, under the new policy, those costs will be passed on to the event.
The ordinance encompassing the new policies was passed by city council at its Dec. 17 meeting.
Council will receive monthly reports on special events within the city.
"We're going to be contacting anyone with a date approval so that they can start the process," Deppen said. "If they have questions they can contact the city offices and we can clarify."