For 65 years, the City of Warren has been eating the cost of cleanup and security at the Fourth of July Parade.
Tough economic times and a desire for frugality prompted a discussion of those costs and the suggestion that perhaps the organizers of the parade should reimburse the city for those costs.
The issue was sharpened by the relatively recent passage of an ordinance dealing with events in the city that calls for the organizers to reimburse the city for such expenses.
It was a tough call the other night, and tempers ran a bit heated.
City administrators had suggested that the organizers pony up half of the estimated costs ahead of the event and then be billed for the balance when the final costs were tallied.
In the end, councilmen opted for making a donation of city services to the event, totalling about $7,500, thus solving their conundrum with semantics.
We believe that public safety is the city's responsibility, whether it is 5 o'clock on a regular Saturday evening or a few hours when the sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue are saturated with parade watchers during the biggest downtown event of the year. Organizers of that event should not be charged for public safety expenses. The police department knows when and where the event will be held and can staff it - as it always has - within the budget the city has provided.
As for cleanup, last year we applauded some volunteer efforts to remove the flotsam and jetsam that always follows large groups of careless people. We would like to expand that applause this year. We can think of few better expressions of community service than to organize groups to clean up a community's mess. A concerted effort, even a competition, would go a long way toward reducing that portion of the city's expenses, while at the same time bringing folks together in a positive activity.
Now, as for the concept of precedent-setting; that's a tough one. Council must now decide how it will react to requests from other event organizers for the same treatment. And, if the Fourth of July Parade decision is expanded, will that undermine an important aspect of the city's event ordinance?