NEW PORT RICHEY — What would New Port Richey be like without its renowned annual Chasco Fiesta celebration?
How about no Holiday Parade? Or Cotee River Bike Fest?
Growing discontent among city officials over New Port Richey picking up the tab for more than a dozen special events to the tune of more than $180,000 a year has some asking those very questions.
Council members have received a recommendation from city administrators to pull the plug on all funding for 18 special events throughout the city, including its largest, the 11-day Chasco Fiesta, which dates back to 1922.
If that recommendation is approved by the council, it would mean the end for Chasco and assuredly other events throughout the year, West Pasco Chamber of Commerce president Joe Alpine predicted.
"If this goes through, and this is approved, there won't be events in the city like there have been in the past," Alpine said. "And there will be a scramble to get anyone down here."
But a report from New Port Richey City Manager John Schneiger says it is time "that the City Council move forward on the path to total cost recovery for special events." Council members have also received a table outlining how much the city shells out for those events.
The biggest hit this year came from Chasco, for which the city paid $85,652 for police, fire, public works and parks and recreation services. The Holiday Parade has the next biggest price tag, costing $27,866, followed by Bike Fest at $9,945, and Main Street Holidays at $9,282.
At least one council member, Rob Marlowe, a vocal critic of the road closings and parking headaches he says the special events cause his downtown business, supports pulling the plug on special events funding.
"I think the organizations that hold these events need to pick up the tab," Marlowe said. "We are facing a serious budget shortfall. It's ugly. So I can't see what we are doing wasting taxpayer money throwing these huge parties."
The chamber and other event organizers have called on the city to produce a more detailed breakdown on the cost of events. Alpine questioned whether the city actually paid more than $85,000 for Chasco this year.
"I want to see more,'' he said. "I want to see where they got these numbers."
Alpine said the special events in Pasco bring visitors and cash to the city that would not be there otherwise. Chasco alone brought in more than $280,000 for several non-profit organizations this year, he said.
Council member Judy DeBella Thomas also said she wanted to see a more detailed breakdown on funding for special events before making a decision.
"I think we need to take a good, hard look at the marketing these events provide the city," she said.
Mayor Bob Consalvo said he wants to see a partnership remain with organizers of special events, and has pledged meetings before any decision is made.
"I want to keep these events here, but I was surprised when I saw the costs," Consalvo said. "So we need to sit down and talk about it with everyone involved."