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Councilors want changes to proposed events policy

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Two members of the Roswell City Council Finance Committee gave several reasons Thursday for saying that they could not support a proposed Special Events and Film Policy as written. The committee voted to table discussions, and city staff has said revisions will be made. Clockwise from left are Councilor Steve Henderson, Councilor Caleb Grant, City Finance Director Monica Garcia, Councilor Jason Perry and Councilor Tabitha Denny. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The city’s proposed policy meant to streamline event and film production approval processes and to enforce fees for city labor and equipment hit a snag Thursday morning when two city councilors said they would not support the draft policy as written.

Jason Perry and Caleb Grant, while expressing appreciation for staff efforts and intentions, said at the Roswell City Council Finance Committee meeting that they would not vote for the Special Event and Film Policy unless changes and clarifications are made. Perry also raised questions about how fees would be charged to nonprofits.
The committee, which also included Councilors Steve Henderson and Tabitha Denny, then voted unanimously to table the policy to see if councilors and staff could collaborate on changes that would be acceptable to both groups.
“I definitely won’t be supporting this. … It is a complicated and complex policy,” said Grant, “and I get it. I appreciate the time (that has been spent) on it … but it is not very clear.”
He questioned, for example, whether the private high school tailgate parties he sometimes holds for about 60 people in the parking lot of the Wool Bowl Stadium would be required to follow the policy’s rules, including a need to obtain city approval for tents and to hire a certain number of security personnel.
Director of Administrative Services Elizabeth Stark-Rankings and Director of Public Affairs Juanita Jennings responded that events would be looked at individually and that the policy is intended to govern large-scale events, defined as more than 100 people. With a high number of attendees that could affect public safety, the policy could require that an event organizer pay for either private security or Roswell Police Department officers.
Perry voiced many questions and concerns about the document, heard once before by the Finance Committee and considered twice by the General Services Committee, which approved it July 26.
“I just personally think that there is so much that needs to (be amended) that I cannot possibly support the document at this time,” said Perry.
Among his concerns was whether the policies could be interpreted to apply to private events on private property, as the policy mentions city authority over events held on private property in certain sections.

Stark-Rankins said that the policies will only apply if the event is held on city property, if it is a film production or if an event held on private property requires city services, such as street barricades or waste receptacles.
Perry also made a point similar to one raised by Councilor Natasha Mackey at the earlier General Services Committee meeting, that the fees — some of which are new but many of which have been on the books since 2013 but not often enforced — might prove prohibitive for nonprofits.
Referring to a cost sample prepared by city staff regarding an event by a nonprofit for 600 people, Perry said, “I guess the concern is where a nonprofit that is used to paying for just a special use permit or a street closure permit of $15 or whatever that is, now for the same exact services that they have been paying $15 for, for all these years, now they are paying $595 at the end of the day … I just don’t know that the city is out $600 by having to place those barricades by an event that is benefiting the city in a positive way.”
The cost sample referred to also included fees for two inflatables, electrical equipment and staff to hook up the electricity.
Councilor Henderson said he thought the policy was warranted and should be adopted and then adjusted if necessary. After hearing Grant and Perry say that they would not approve the policy as is, Henderson recommended tabling discussions until changes could be made.
Jennings, whose office and its Tourism and Event manager will oversee policy implementation, said city staff will work now to revise the policy.
“Staff drafted the policy based on recommendation from Council and best practices of other municipalities of our size,” she said in an email. “It’s a healthy debate for Council to have so that it meets their vision. It has gone through initial reviews and through the committees, as this is the process in place. Staff will go back and make the changes as requested to ensure it is what Council intends to help build a stronger, consistent, streamlined and fair policy.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.