The first shot has been fired at the City of Warren's new special events ordinance.
In December, council approved the ordinance, which includes a provision that requires all costs incurred by the city, such as staff overtime, to be passed on to the event planner for payment.
But there appear to be exceptions.
Council approved a $7,500 "donation" of city services to cover the costs that the city incurs for the 4th of July parade during Monday night's meeting.
Mayor Mark Phillips spearheaded the effort. "I would look at this (the parade) as one of the unique times where people come to the City of Warren to feel good and enjoy camaraderie," he said. "I have a hard time not partnering with the 4th of July parade. I have a hard time putting our hand out and saying 'give us more money.'"
Police chief Raymond Zydonik said that the typical cost of the parade to the city is in realm of $8,000. "Is this what we are asking the 4th of July coordinators to pay?" Phillips asked. "Yes," said Zydonik, "after the event. After we've established what the final costs" will be."
Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau said that the expectation is that 50 percent of those projected costs be paid before an event occurs.
City Manager Nancy Freenock said that she has met with the 4th of July Committee and mentioned to them that they should seek contributions from surrounding municipalities. "Also as much as can be done during normal workdays will be done. Instead of cleaning up immediately after the parade, wait until the next day. That will save on overtime," she said.
"It's great that people come down here but they're not availing themselves of the businesses," she explained, indicating that many businesses cannot open because of the level of people downtown.
Phillips said he views the municipal pool and the parade in the same manner. "It does not bring in enough revenue to cover expenses," he said of the two entities. "I'm disturbed that we don't try to work this cost in a manner that is not so burdensome... We fund the swimming pool for about a 30- to 60-day period of time to $25,000."
Freenock said that the intention of the ordinance is not to make a profit from event organizers but to "cover the cost of what the city incurs."
"Should it be put it to the voter?" Zydonik asked.
"Hell no, that's why we got elected, with all respect," Phillips responded. "We don't have to charge. I don't think it's precedent-setting. Our new process of special events, while well-founded; Certainly, this is the first entity that has gone through the process. It's interesting."
Councilman Sam Harvey said that the "proper way to do this," which would avoid setting a precedent, would be to make a donation to 4th of July Committee.
"The uniqueness of the event requires us to review the kind of support the city is going to provide," Councilman John Lewis said. "I'm of a similar mind to the Mayor. We have already set a precedent for 65 years where we have not asked them (to pay). I don't see any reason not to continue that."
Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson said that the parade could be added to the list of the city's annual donations in the future.
"I don't think we should donate the entire amount," Harvey said. "Let the other municipalities step up. We didn't put it in our budget."
Zydonik said he estimates department overtime using the same number of hours per year. "So it basically is in the budget," Harvey claimed.
The ordinance was originally developed after a spike of more than $16,000 in city overtime from special events in 2011, followed by $13, 280.27 in event overtime in 2012.