1. Pinellas

Madeira Beach reaches deal with seafood festival

MADEIRA BEACH — The City Commission recently approved an agreement with the John's Pass Village Association to continue the Seafood Festival for another year.

The city will control and get revenue from parking during the event, while picking up the direct costs, up to $8,500, associated with supporting it. That includes fire prevention, sanitation, road closures and other associated expenses. Those costs have generally run a little over $6,000.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: John's Pass Seafood Festival a success: Was it the last?

City Manager Jonathan Evans said the city has an opportunity to make a significant amount of money from managing and controlling the parking, as the plan is to charge festival-goers a flat $20 parking fee rather than the normal $2.50 an hour meter rate. Last month, Evans said turning over the parking spaces three times a day would give the city about $23,000 in revenue for the three-day event.

While approving the Seafood Festival for 2019, the commission turned down a request by Evans to extend the agreement for two years. Evans said a two-year agreement would give the city more data on the financial impact of controlling the parking, and "provide reassurance for the community and event organizers" on the city's commitment.

While Mayor Maggi Black at first said she wanted to "go forward and extend the festival for two years," other commissioners disagreed.

Commissioner John Douthirt said he would not support a two-year extension when the city "had no plan for the logistics of the parking."

"We have no idea who will handle (the parking), how many spots we have, or how many areas we can park in,'' he said. ".t's irresponsible to approve this for more than one year.''

Last month, Evans said 133 parking spaces are available at John's Pass Park and 130th Avenue.

At the recent meeting, Evans said city staff "has the experience to work out the logistics."

Commissioner Deby Weinstein said she also was not in favor of a two-year contract.

"We've had so much back and forth on this," Weinstein said. "Keep it for a year and see what happens."

Commissioner Nancy Hodges said she did not understand all the controversy over the festival, and the changes being made.

"We've done this for 37 years and never had any problems. I don't understand. It's always worked," she said.

Resident Robert Preston said the Seafood Festival has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community. "It's worked so well for so many years. Why not just leave it alone?" said Preston.

The commission approved a one-year agreement with the Village Association to keep the festival at John's Pass Village, with Weinstein opposed.