PG City Council mulls making organizers pay thousands for annual events.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Pacific Grove officials have sent local business owners into a panic by considering a move that could “doom” the city’s traditional festivals, including Good Old Days, the Feast of Lanterns and the Parade of Lights.
Next month, the City Council will consider annulling fee waivers for the 2006 events in an effort to help balance Pacific Grove’s deeply troubled budget. Traditionally, the City has waived fees for such services as rental of parks and parking lots, garbage and recycling receptacles, barricades, police, fire, public works and recreation.
But in these tight times, according to city officials, the City can’t afford to foot the bill. Last year, for example, Feast of Lanterns, the most expensive annual event, cost the City $19,792.63. If the Council decides to axe the fee waivers, organizers would be required to come up with nearly $20,000.
According to PG Chamber of Commerce President Moe Ammar and others, the move would financially destroy the events, which rely on volunteers and city support.
“It will doom every one of them,” Ammar says. “Some of them operate at a loss. They don’t raise any money. The Butterfly Parade, the 4th of July Celebration and the Holiday Tree Lighting all lose money. This decision would make them impossible to hold.”
In addition to these festivals, the chamber also organizes Good Old Days—the only one that makes money—and Stillwell Snow in the Park, which, according to Ammar, annually costs the chamber upwards of $4,000. Other events that would be affected include the Concours Auto Rally, the Homecoming Parade and the Marching Band Festival. In total, the 10 annual events cost the City $66,765.89.
“It’s crazy,” says Don Martine, who owns Martine Inn. “I cannot comprehend where this council gets its screwball ideas and how it takes these kinds of actions. It doesn’t listen to the committees that work with it. In all my 70 years in this community, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
City Councilwoman Sue Goldbeck is quick to point out that no decisions have been made regarding fee waivers.
“We’re really at a crossroads in PG,” she says. “The new audit has just come up. We need to find out what we’re short and we as a community have to decide what services we need to cut and what we need to charge for. This is just one item on the table.”
Yet local business people like Steve Gorman who, as a member of the PG Rotary Club organizes and sponsors the Good Old Days Parade, says the Council needs to look elsewhere to cut costs.
“We organize this event at no cost to city,” he says. “It’s one of the nicest parades in our area. To donate all of our effort and volunteer hours and then have the city charge us is unbelievable.
“I don’t blame them for looking at all the costs, but the thing about the Good Old Days Parade is that it’s something that brings a large amount of revenue. What would our town be if we didn’t have all of these special events?”
Maybe that’s something for the city to consider, says Goldbeck, who admits she’s concerned about the “carnivalization” of Pacific Grove.
“We have event after event and it has a high impact on our residents,” she says. “We need to also focus on finding the kind of traditional tourism that’s steady and not so event-oriented.”
THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO A WORKSHOP ON JAN. 18, 3:30PM, AT THE PACIFIC GROVE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY TO DISCUSS THE PROPOSAL. IT WILL LIKELY BE ON THE FEB.1 COUNCIL AGENDA.