Friday, July 31–Committee Proposes Special Event Fee Spike

OCEAN CITY – Special event permits in the town of Ocean City might be getting a little pricier in 2010 if the Recreation and Parks Committee gets its way.

On Tuesday, the committee voted to recommend to the Mayor and City Council to instill a bit more than an just an incremental price spike to not only get a permit for a special event, but also for the equipment used as well.

Councilman Lloyd Martin, who also sits on the Recreation and Parks Committee, said that the potential move is not merely a tactic used to make the town more money.

“We spend almost $300,000 on special events per year in this town, and if we charged them 10 percent more for their permit and the services we provide, then we could hope to recoup $30,000 of tax payer money that we expend each year,” said Martin.

What started as a potential 25-percent rise in price was tweaked down to a much more favorable 10-percent hike, after Councilman Jim Hall thought that going from no cost to 25 percent would be too much to bear for some events, especially non-profit ones.

“I don’t think it will fly at 25 percent, I think 10 percent is a much more realistic number,” said Hall.

Special Events Director John Sullivan said that the current $35 permit fee for profit events and $15 for non-profit events is not covering the costs for the town, and in addition, he says that offering up the town’s amenities, such as stages, cones, chairs, and tables for free, is also taxing on the town’s bottom line.

“Our goal with these are to collect something back for what we are doing and providing for each event,” said Sullivan.

Some of the highlights to the potential plan include a daily user fee in addition to the application fee and a new list of items that the events used to get for free (stages, chairs, etc).

“When we go to set up a stage, it takes manpower to go down there and pick up the equipment, drive it there, set it up and then go back and tear it down when the event is over,” said Sullivan. “The daily user fee would cover those costs a bit better, and if they know they are going to be charged for using something, they will take better care of it, and really think about what it is they actually need for their event.”

Hall said the theory is to encourage special events groups to “right-size or prioritize” their needed materials for their events, saying, “sometimes they fill out these forms and just write down all the stuff they’d like to have, but they don’t really need. If we charge them for it, they’ll only write it down if they are sure.”

Sullivan said that other municipalities and competing resorts are all trying to look at ways to recoup some of the expenses that are paid into putting on special events, and he says this is a “much smarter” way to operate.

Hall and Martin both conceded that going to this new system from the current little to no cost to the events, could scare some people away and be a hard-sell with their fellow council members.

“My gut says we should try this at 10 percent and try to manage things a little bit better,” said Hall.

The council is expected to hear the committee’s proposal in the near future.

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