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Event Ordinance Gains Approval
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Following about an hour of testimony, questions and concerns over costs voiced by local residents, Escalon City Council members unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate special events in the city. The ordinance deals only with adding a chapter to the city's municipal code relating to special events; what remains to be determined is a fee structure for the city's participation. That will range from items including payment for any special police services needed to clean up of any city locations used.

Interim City Manager Henry Hesling said the city did not have anything in place to regulate events and there needs to be a mechanism so the city can at least recoup the costs for staff time spent on the activities.

Parades, gatherings, any number of events can be covered by the new ordinance.

"As defined in the ordinance, a "special event" is any large, temporary event located on public property, including the public rights-of-way, and specific events held on private property that are inconsistent with the property's regularly permitted use..." Hesling wrote in his staff report to the council.

The goal, he added, is not to add any unnecessary fees for community groups or service organizations that are looking to put on events, but just to have a way for the city to be compensated for any assistance they provide.

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

Residents turned out in force for the Sept. 20 council session, uncertain of the ramifications of the ordinance.

"Now you're going to be looking for fees for parades ... God knows what all," resident and local businessman Art Sipma said in testimony before the council. "When you start charging fees, it's the same as a tax. The more you tax, the less involvement of our citizens we'll have."

Sipma said he was "shocked" to see the city looking to enact the ordinance.

Council member Jeff Laugero was quick to differentiate that no fee structure would be put in place with the ordinance that night, but only after carefully weighing the costs. Council members agreed that they don't want to burden residents with high fees and there could be some waivers, depending on the event and organization.

Several council members, in fact, are also involved in community service groups and said it's imperative that activities like the recent Lions Club car cruise, which raises money for scholarships, not be adversely impacted and lose money because of additional fees.

Hesling said he would also like to see a 'community calendar' drawn up to avoid conflicts among groups putting on events.

"I don't think this is going to restrict anybody," he added of developing a fee structure, noting that he doesn't foresee huge fees.

"When we were flush, we didn't have to worry about it," Hesling said of the city just providing whatever services were needed in the past. "But we're on the hook for everything."

Getting the city 'off the hook' is the goal of the ordinance.

American Legion representative Darrell Voortman questioned whether every activity would be subject to fees.

"The Veterans' Day parade is for the community, it's not something we make money on," Voortman pointed out.

Hesling said the city always has the option to co-sponsor an event, which could result in a waiver of fees, but those would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Those planning special events would have to fill out an application and provide information ranging from the type and location, total hours for the event and whether there is an admission charge for it. Event security and environmental issues are also part of the package. Hesling said the city would like to have 60 days notice of upcoming events. Council members approved the ordinance by a 5-0 vote, with Hesling due to come back to them with a proposed fee structure for consideration in October.