A letter to the editor submitted to the Times Observer stated that excessive fees were charged to the Kelly Miller Circus for using Betts Park one day early last week.
City Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau said the application from the circus was for one day arriving at 8:30 a.m. and leaving at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, July16. She said she received a call from city police that circus personnel were setting up a day early, on Monday morning, so she went down to talk to them.
Nau said she explained that the city ordinance regarding fees requires a $25 charge for each camper or trailer unit for each night, and overnight camping requires prior approval by city council. After a discussion with people from the circus, they agreed to pay the $1,000 fee rather than trying to find another place.
"If we had advance notice (that they were arriving early), we could have worked with them and made other arrangements," Nau said. "We didn't charge them for Monday or Wednesday. Had there been another reservation on either Monday or Wednesday we would have had a problem. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place."
She noted that the event required a great deal of work by city employees, including 150 phone calls in advance. The presence of large animals required plans for dealing with unusual circumstances, such as elephant or tiger getting loose could put the city at some risk for liability, even with insurance carried by the circus and the city.
Nau explained that the costs of maintaining the park are not widely understood. Mowing the grass costs $1,000 every time it is mowed, she said, and the grass needs to be cut for each event.
The letter writer's claims of a $250 permit for "selling popcorn" was exaggerated, Nau explained, as the circus actually purchased eight vendor permits at $5 each for a total of $40. She added that the permits allow the city to track who sold what in case of complaints or food poisoning, and the $5 is a handling fee.
She said there will be a post-event meeting in August with Reynold Flatt, who organized the event for North Warren Volunteer Fire Department, which paid the $165 event fee.
Nau added, "To their credit, they (the circus) cleaned up the park and left it in good condition."