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Committee brakes on waiving fees for summer movies

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MainStreet Roswell’s request for the city of Roswell to waive fees for summer movies in the park was recommended for denial by the City Council’s Finance Committee.

On Thursday evening, Councilor Judy Stubbs made a motion to deny the request to waive fees pertaining to city staff time and equipment with the intention to find a solution about the event and Councilor Jacob Roebuck seconded the motion. Councilor Steve Henderson said he would prefer to allow MainStreet to continue the event for the imminent summer season and cast the only opposing vote.

City Manager Joe Neeb said the committee’s decision does not end the event and the continuation would be MainStreet’s decision. This will go before the full council at the next meeting.

“At this time, unless something changes, MainStreet Roswell will not be organizing the free summer movies,” Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, said.

The fees in question involve city staff assisting with the event and costs the city $8,200 for the 10 event days. Lay said the licensing fee was around $450 for each movie and print promotion.

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“This is for the people of Roswell,” former MainStreet board member Rita Kane-Doerhoefer said. “And not only do families come, but teenagers come and they watch the movies.”

Neeb said he loves movies in the park and encouraged MainStreet to host them in different parks throughout the city in the past. Kane-Doerhoffer said MainStreet tried hosting movies downtown at the Chaves County Courthouse and Roswell Convention & Civic Center, but the traffic would stall to watch the movies. The event has also been hosted at the zoo and was in consideration for this season occurring at Cielo Grande and Cahoon Park when times conflicted with sports events.

“The challenge that we have with this is — movies in the park is good, but this is a downtown entity putting out movies in the park,” Neeb said. “The question is, the movies is not a mission of MainStreet Roswell,” Neeb said. “And that’s the hard part that you have. It doesn’t show up in their comprehensive plans or anything, so the challenge is that we love that MainStreet is able to partner and do this. The challenge we have is that it is $12,000 (covered by the City) — $4,000 is what MainStreet is putting out. I’m assuming the sponsors are covering that.”

Though the city has covered costs for usage of a park in addition to Park and Recreation staff’s hourly rate to set up equipment in the past, Neeb said he believes if MainStreet increases sponsorship, the event would remain successful.

Other MainStreet’s hosted events are the UFO and Chile Cheese festivals. At the monthly event of First Fridays, the city has been providing tables and chairs at Reischman Park for MainStreet. The use of the city’s public address (PA) system has ended and in May, MainStreet will not require this service according to Juanita Jennings, public affairs director.

“We just need to help MainStreet focus,” Roebuck said. “MainStreet has got a lot of work to do and this is not in their mission. As a major contributor to MainStreet’s budget, it’s $40,000 a year and free space — which we appreciate and we need. I just don’t see that this is in their mission and since we are providing so much of their funding anyways, I would like to encourage them to focus more.”

MainStreet Roswell’s board of directors released this statement to the Daily Record on Wednesday morning:

“MainStreet Roswell is very disappointed that the City Finance Committee voted to not continue to partner with them to bring the Free Summer Movies to the community by providing the use of the park, equipment and support staff at no charge. MainStreet Roswell realizes the City Council Finance Committee is looking at reducing costs to provide family activities and is trying to keep within the city’s budget. For several years now, the city provided support staff, park use and equipment use as an active partner with MainStreet Roswell. MainStreet Roswell worked with local business sponsors to pay for movie licensing costs (averaging $5,000 per summer) and provided volunteers to facilitate the actual movie night events. MainStreet Roswell handled all licensing, as well as promotion for the event through posters, printed fliers, social media, and on the website.

“As a small, nonprofit organization, MainStreet Roswell does not have the extra funds to also pay the city fees in addition to the other expenses involved. MainStreet Roswell felt it was a wonderful way to provide a great summer family activity for the Roswell community. They sincerely appreciate the support the city of Roswell provides the MainStreet Roswell program, but are truly sad that they will no longer be able to work with them to support the Free Summer Movies.”

After saying when the turnout is 300 to 400 attendees, Councilor Grant said the event was a good idea but also said MainStreet’s $4,000 raised for this event could be used for downtown. Grant added the decision should almost be in the hands of the city since the city was providing most of the funds.

Councilor Roebuck said in his opinion movies are accessible in the home and not an essential activity that children need. Neeb said the intent is to get people out and congregated together and the movie is secondary. Jim Burress, Parks and Recreation director, said it is his job to get families outside and said the event was more than a movie that brings families and extended families together.

“If MainStreet does not want to continue the events, then Parks and Recreation will decide on whether or not it becomes a recreation program as a city function — if it meets the criteria of why we do a program,” Neeb said.

City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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