Alderman William Mott said he was looking for consistency.
The Lake Geneva Jaycees were again before the Lake Geneva City Council on Monday asking for permits to operate the annual Venetian Festival centered on Flat Iron, Seminary and Library parks from Aug. 13 to 17 this year.
However, because of set up and cleanup, the permit is for Aug. 11 to 18.
The festival raises money for a whole list of civic projects and organizations to which the Jaycees then contribute throughout the rest of the year.
In their application, the Jaycees agree to pay a $25 application fee, but ask that all other fees be waived.
Because the event requires closing down some parking spaces, using city-owned benches and picnic tables and draws nearly 20,000 people into the city over its five-day run, the fees would normally run into the hundreds of dollars, not counting the costs of having city police and county sheriff’s deputies running security.
And the exact amount of just the fees is unknown, because some fees are set at the discretion of the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners.
The Jaycees were requesting waiving the parking stall fee at $10 per stall per day.
Other fees waived included:
n An attendance fee, which would have been at the discretion of the park board because the event draws more than 149 attendees.
n Park reservation fees which would have come to $105 per park.
The Jaycees also asked to waive equipment fees, including:
n 20 benches at $30 for every 10.
n 10 picnic tables at $75 for every five.
n 20 trash recepticles at a cost of $30 per five, and a $50 deposit.
However, the park board decided that because the event raises tens of thousands of dollars, all of which goes to benefit charitable organizations in the city, the $25 application fee was adequate.
Less certain was another charitable event, the Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin run/walk designed to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The charity operates in southeastern Wisconsin and not all of the money raised by the run/walk stays in the community.
The permit application was filed by Andy Kerwin of Lake Geneva.
The charity organizers will pay $75, $25 for a park reservation permit and $50 for a park reservation fee, but asked that all other fees be waived for the Sept. 20 event.
“I would err on the side of consistency,” Mott said. “We charge other organizations, why not them,” he said, referring to the Jaycees.
Alderwoman Sarah Hill said she agreed with Mott, that some kind of consistent policy was needed to govern when the city waives fees.
“Our responsibility is to the taxpayers,” she said. “We are spending other peoples’ money.”
Hill also pointed out that the Alzheimer’s walk was charged one year, was not charged a fee the next and is again being charged a fee.
But not everyone agreed that a one-size-fits-all policy would work.
Alderman Sturg Taggart argued that the good the Jaycees do with the money raised through Venetian Festival far outweighs any loss of revenue from some closed parking stalls.
“They do so much beyond the meter rates, we should leave it as it is,” Taggart said.
Mayor Jim Connors said that each event is judged on its merits.
“But how do we make this match?” asked Alderwoman Ellyn Kehoe.
“It’s hard to come up with one hard-and-fast rule that covers everyone,” replied Connors.
Alderman Al Kupsik, who sits on the park board, said the board has been more consistent in recent years in deciding who is charged fees and who is not.
“We’ve come a long way on waiving fees,” said Kupsik. “We don’t do it as much as we used to.”
When the final vote came, the Jaycees were granted permits and the fees were waived on a 5-2 vote, with Kehoe and Mott voting no. Alderman Dennis Lyon was absent.
The permit for the three-mile run/walk event organized by the Alzheimer’s association of Southeastern Wisconsin at a cost of $75 for all permits and fees was approved 7-0.
In other city business, the council approved joining Elkhorn and Delavan in hiring a consulting firm to do a job classification and compensation study.
According to a memo from City Administrator Dennis Jordan to the city council and mayor, that with the passage of Acts 10 and 32, the three Walworth County cities decided that a study was needed to determine what wages would be in line for city positions once covered by municipal employee unions.
The three cities agreed to hire Springsted, a Milwaukee consulting firm, to do the study. According to Jordan, the city hasn’t done such a study in more than 30 years.
Lake Geneva’s share of Springsted’s fees comes to $16,675, of which $13,000 will come out of the city administrator’s study budget and the difference from miscellaneous cash.