By Jane Smith
Under a new special events policy, city taxpayers will soon stop subsidizing private special events in Delray Beach.
Mayor Cary Glickstein praised the special events task force that developed the policy for staying focused on establishing a level playing field and recovering the city’s true cost of events.
“The reason we have so many events is that we have a cool town with a walkable main street, and many [promoters] were getting a free ride,” Glickstein said at the second City Commission meeting in August.
He said the city has grown in the past 20 years and no longer needs so many events to attract people to its downtown. “The world has changed dramatically in terms of public safety,” he said. The city’s public safety departments are currently overwhelmed by increasing heroin overdoses.
“We’ve only recovered 40 percent of our costs,” City Manager Don Cooper said. He based that figure on analysis provided by the city’s Finance Department, which found the city paying about $274,000 annually for the 14 approved events in the next budget year.
The exact costs in the past are not known, said Assistant City Manager Francine Ramaglia. The city likely undercharged and did not attribute all costs to an individual event, such as a portion of the special events coordinator’s salary.
Of the 23 people who spoke at the commission meeting, eight favored continuing the events.
“Special events affect many people,” said Laura Simon, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. “They’re special.” She asked for more time to evaluate the economic impact from the events on the downtown.
Karen Granger, executive director of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, said, “The chamber is on board with less is more” regarding special events. She also advised the commissioners to consider the economic impact of the festivals — $5.5 million from the Delray Affair alone.
Promoter Nancy Stewart-Franczak, who recently moved the 2017 Garlic Fest to a county park west of Lake Worth, said, “People have been calling us and asking what’s happening downtown. We will lose our fun vibe.” Her company also canceled the 2016 Wine & Seafood Fest when it ran out of time to plan the event.
To Stewart-Franczak, who previously voiced resistance to a new policy, Glickstein said, “I’m personally offended by your comments of prior elected officials who supported you better than us. … Your sense of entitlement is palpable.”
Only one resident, Kevin Warner, said he liked what the task force did. “It’s time to put up or shut up and raise the money to support your event. I never heard people say, ‘I moved here because of the events.’ ”
To soften the blow to recurring event organizers who saw their costs double, the City Commission agreed to a three-year phased period for full-cost recovery of police, fire, parks and other city services.
Police costs accounted for much of the increase. Other cities have more nonsworn police personnel to use during events, such as those needed to staff a 5K run, Commissioner Jordana Jarjura said.
Delray Beach’s contract with its police union allows lieutenants to get the first pick of overtime jobs, said Jeff Snyder, assistant chief financial officer.
The commissioners unanimously approved the task force’s recommendation for the city-authorized Veterans Day Parade, Holiday Parade, 100-foot Christmas Tree, Holiday Lighting Ceremonies, First Night, Fourth of July and others they determine fit the new guidelines. Four members sat on the dais; Vice Mayor Al Jacquet was absent.
During tourist season, only one major event per month can take place under the policy; city events will have precedence. The city manager has the power to waive the rule and the decision rests with him.
All events must pay a nonrefundable $150 permit application fee.
Charities may receive a 50 percent discount on city services. For city sponsorships, such as for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March and the Delray Affair in April, the City Commission will want more control over the events, said Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.
The task force will bring a final special events policy for commission approval in September with a goal of an Oct. 1 effective date, the start of the city’s budget year.
Old School Square gets
more say in events there
The city’s Old School Square historic campus, which has housed many of the high-impact events, will return to being more of a passive park, said Robert Steele, executive director. He gave his presentation in a joint workshop with the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency held just before the commission meeting.
Other OSS plans include a permanent home for the CRA’s weekly Green Market and a say in what events are allowed to be held on its interior grounds, along Northeast First Avenue.
The CRA, which is paying for the building repairs currently underway, also will cover the costs for the next phase of the master plan. The CRA has $500,000 set aside in next year’s budget for OSS, enough to cover the estimated $100,000 plan costs.