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New Port Richey fall, holiday festivals get city backing

NEW PORT RICHEY — Organizers of four special events won city backing this week after their belt-tightening efforts paid off.

City Manager John Schneiger issued a report earlier this year showing the city spends $180,000 a year providing police officers, firefighters, public works and parks crews to help put on festivals and parades. With tax dollars shrinking, Schneiger suggested the city require the events to start picking up the tab.

Some organizers said their events couldn't survive without city support, but they rounded up more volunteers and found ways to cut costs. On Tuesday night, the council agreed to give them some support — just not as much as the past:

• Founders Day, slated for Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, will get $1,514 in city support — half as much as last year. The event is sponsored by Greater New Port Richey Main Street.

• Bike Fest, sponsored Oct. 7 to 9 by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, will cost the city $4,390, down from nearly $10,000 last year.

• Main Street Holidays, to run Dec. 9 to 11, will also receive city support, though the dollar figure hasn't been finalized. As they plan to do with Founders Day, Greater New Port Richey Main Street will cut costs by hiring off-duty police instead of using on-duty officers racking up overtime.

• The Dec. 10 Holiday Parade, organized by Holiday Rotary, tripled its army of volunteers and will use jail inmates to help set up and take down barricades, among other savings. The city will chip in less than $10,000, down from an estimated $27,000 last year.

Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said he was impressed with the work done to find savings, even as he considers himself the most "vocal" council member calling on special events organizers to pay their own way. Marlowe said long-term events need to be self-sufficient, but there is a need for a "transition period."

"They're trying to meet us where we need to be," Marlowe said.

With a spirit of compromise in the air, there was, however, no mention of funding for Chasco Fiesta, the largest festival that has stirred the most controversy.

Chasco cost the city $85,000 last year, topping Schneiger's list. Chasco organizers have said the event cannot survive without funding from the city, and a backup location has been found, should a deal fail to be reached.

The council has not yet addressed funding for Chasco, which is slated for March. But they will have a work session Oct. 11 to negotiate funding for New Port Richey's most popular event.

Chamber president Joe Alpine said positive negotiations on other events in the city, such as Bike Fest, have been a good sign.

"It's going to be really good because we will have two hours to sit down and discuss what needs to happen to make sure we keep it here," Alpine said.

In other news, a divided council moved forward with marketing various city-owned properties as possible cell tower sites.

Council members gave the green light to Tampa-based Collier Enterprises to market the parcels, which include the city's public works complex, water tower, recreation complex, wastewater treatment plant, and City Hall.

The effort comes at no cost the city: Collier would pay for the construction and maintenance of any tower, if a wireless company is interested, Collier CEO Stacy Frank said. The company and the city would then split the rent paid by wireless carriers, 50/50.

Locking the city into that rent structure didn't sit well with council members Ginny Miller and Bob Langford, who cast the dissenting votes in the 3-2 decision.

Frank told council members not to expect a quick payoff. Most wireless companies have extensive infrastructures and may not need to use any of the city's parcels, she said.

And a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is also having a "chilling" effect on companies making many new moves, Frank said. It could be well into 2012 before the city could see any revenue, if any at all.

"I don't want to overpromise," Frank said.

New Port Richey fall, holiday festivals get city backing 09/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 8:43pm]
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