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Committee addresses special events policy

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The city of Roswell’s Finance Committee explored the possibility of drafting “an outside event policy” to replace the special events policy as presented by Councilor Jacob Roebuck.

No formal action was taken, but the conversation is expected to continue in future committee meetings.

Juanita Jennings, public affairs director, said some councilors expressed a need for revision on the special events policy “based on the sheer number of organizations” to the city for in-kind services and/or fee waivers for services from the police, fire, public works, Parks and Recreation, public affairs and administration departments. She said the policy was passed by city councilors in November of last year. Jennings explained that the current process for event coordinators seeking the city’s assistance is to submit an application from event organizers, which is sent to the Finance Committee and then to full council for approval or denial.

Last year, Jennings sad the estimated cost to the city for supporting events was $490,000 and for this year the cost is $298,000 as of Oct. 24.

Councilors Caleb Grant and Jacob Roebuck echoed the concerns from various city staff about the overtime costs and burdens on city staff at committee meetings and at the full City Council meeting on Oct. 11 during the discussion on the Walk for Hope event, a fundraiser for the Chaves County Cancer Fund.

In April, the full City Council passed a resolution that determined Eastern New Mexico State Fair, Cinco de Mayo and Rise over Roswell Balloon Rally, Hike It & Spike It and the UFO Festival as signature local events that will receive special assistance from the city.

Roebuck presented what he called the “outside event policy,” a new version of the city’s special events policy for events not ran or funded by the city, to the committee and city staff on Thursday morning. In crafting this policy, Roebuck said he met with city staff several times for input.

Roebuck suggested adding three budgets for sponsored, signature and new events budgets to have funds available and budgeted each fiscal year. Five signature events would be selected by the City Council after proposing nominations for those that have “extraordinary impact or particularly vital to the city,” according to Roebuck, and new events would be for organizations trying a new idea. Using fictional events, Roebuck explained that sponsored events in the proposed outside events policy would be scored in various categories to determine the cost the city can contribute to with services. He said the sponsored events would be reviewed by a board or commission with the scores and the council could determine the amount of funding.

Roebuck said the goals of the policy are as follows: develop a fair and transparent process for event organizers, clear guidelines for staff, ensure the policy can adapt the will of the governing body in place, and eliminate waivers and in-kind donations to allow the city to better understand the true cost of events.

To implement the outside event policy, Roebuck said the four basic steps to begin are for the city to establish real cost fees for events, add an events budget to the city budget, develop a funding process to distribute funds, and create a process for selecting signature events. Roebuck said he worked with City Manager Joe Neeb to develop an equation to figure the real costs of facility and labor associated with outside events. Using the city’s stage as an example, Roebuck said the current fee is $1,000 and some organizations, such as the Buddy Walk and Walk for Hope said this was a barrier for them, and Neeb and Roebuck’s formula determined the real cost was $450.

Neeb said with the proposed policy, the city is “moving in the right direction” and said the city fees will go through the new formula to develop a true cost.

Councilors and committee members Judy Stubbs and Steve Henderson, along with Chairman Grant, thanked Roebuck for his work and said they were in favor of his ideas. Henderson said the proposed outside event policy was a “great idea” and Grant emphasized the benefit of determining the real costs. Grant also asked about getting the fee revisions done by December and Neeb said the staff “could make every effort to get there” before conversations with event organizers happen in early next year.

Stubbs focused on funding questions and comments such as designating funds for replacement of city equipment and labor costs. She said she would want to meet with all of those seeking city assistance for events (other than the ones that will be held at Roswell Convention & Civic Center.)

Councilor Jeanine Corn Best, who is not a Finance Committee member but was present for the discussion, said Roebuck’s plan should wait at least a year before implementation to allow event organizers to plan accordingly. City Manager Joe Neeb agreed with Best’s assessment.

Prior to the discussion on the special events, Neeb said the city is working with the Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber, Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. and MainStreet Roswell to draft new and improved memorandums of understanding until each organizations’ agreements, with individual scope of services, are finalized and then the final product will be ratified by the City Council. Jennings said events (and costs associated) organized by those four entities would be included in their contracts and Grant used the example that this would set up these annual events without the organizations coming to every finance meeting to ask for assistance. This item was discussed and no formal action was taken.

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