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Council Delays Enacting Fees
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An idea that seemed good in theory is proving increasingly hard to put into place, with a special events fee ordinance still pending before the Escalon City Council.

The council in late September unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate "special events" in the city, with that list liable to include everything from Park Fete to the annual Homecoming parade. But concerns voiced by many regarding costs - especially since many of the groups hosting events are non-profit - prompted a pullback by the council over approving any fees when the ordinance took effect.

City Manager Henry Hesling said enough people turned out with questions and concerns at the initial public hearing on the plan that the council now plans to meet with representatives of some of the local organizations to gain their input.

The item was on the council agenda at the Nov. 15 session, but will come back for action at a later date.

"We'll re-advertise and have another public hearing," Hesling said of bringing the issue back for more comment.

The initial hearing in September included about an hour of testimony from residents concerned about the costs, which they feared might be prohibitive and outweigh any proceeds they might gain.

Hesling said the idea is really just to cover city costs for such things as street cleaning, extra police patrol for crowd control and parking enforcement, and the like.

The ordinance approved by the council in September deals only with adding a chapter to the city's municipal code relating to special events. That remains in effect but now must be expanded to include the fees.

Hesling said events can also be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the possibility of some fee waivers. Key, he said, is the city knowing well in advance of the events coming up, so they can adequately plan for the manpower required.

"There were five or six people there," Hesling said of the public turning out for the latest council meeting.

He said the council remains steadfast in finding a way to balance recouping the city's cost in these increasingly tough economic times while not adversely impacting the local groups.

"They're trying to do something for all the organizations that do things for the city," Hesling said of working out an equitable fee structure.

No date has been set for the public hearing yet; Hesling said there is still a chance a committee may be formed between some council members and community representatives to work out some details prior to putting the issue back before the full council.

Hesling added that the issue arose when it was determined the city did not have anything in place to regulate events and he saw the need for a mechanism so the city can at least recoup the costs for staff time spent on the activities.

"Most cities in California have this type of ordinance," Hesling noted.

Officials are also urging the development of a 'community calendar' to avoid conflicts among groups putting on events.

The ordinance also includes a provision for those planning special events to fill out an application with information including the type and location, total hours for the event, any admission fee, event security requirements and environmental considerations.