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Saturday, April 2, 2011

City looking at special events to cut costs

Carnival rides please many of the younger crowd attending the 15th Annual Arab International Festival last June. Some city officals say they may have to charge such events for the cost of police service and things like cleanup after it is over, given the city’s financial problems. (File photo by Millard Berry/ P & G)
Published: Friday, April 01, 2011By J. Patrick PepperPress & Guide Newspapers DEARBORN — For years the city has been a generous supporter of privately sponsored special events, providing public services at no cost in the name of community benefit. But with the city now facing its largest budget deficit since the Great Depression, this municipality’s munificence is history. “Really, it’s something we’ve done for years and there hasn’t been a need to look at it because money hasn’t been an issue,” said Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly in an interview. “Obviously things are much different now and we need to get our costs in line.” The city’s official policy on special events is that sponsors must reimburse the city for services provided — anything from Department of Public Works employees who set up barriers and pick up trash to police presence, But a Press & Guide inquiry found that as much as two-thirds of the 100 or so special events the city provides services for annually are not charged anything. Last year, for instance, there were 91 special events authorized by the city. Of those, the police department was by far the largest biller, sending invoices for 33 of the events. Other departments billing for services included DPW, which issued charges for three events, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which charged for services at four events. City officials say the collection rate was 100 percent for a grand total of $161,161. The majority of events were not billed, though, something that’s due to a non enumerated policy the city has used for years, officials said. The policy holds that events which appeal to a broad audience, directly increase commercial activity, and strengthen the city’s image are considered to be an overall benefit to the public and therefore are not subject to charges. Those that have more of a singular purpose and attract a limited audience, on the other hand, must reimburse the city. But there are no codified standards as to how that determination is made, At a City Council meeting last May, for example, two special events were on the agenda; the Arab International Festival and the Motor City Corvette Concourse. Council made resolutions supporting both, which both required street closures and some police presence. But only the Concourse was required to reimburse the city. O’Reilly said it’s because Les Stanford, a for-profit entity, was the sponsor of the Concourse, whereas the American Arab Chamber, a nonprofit entity, sponsored the Arab Fest. Continued...http://www.pressandguide.com/articles/2011/04/01/news/doc4d96155bcb6c4907665310.txt

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