Mayor Cautions Council On New Special Events Fees

OCEAN CITY – On the heels of the Mayor and City Council approving an amendment to special event permit fees and banner policy, Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller returned to the council this week to ask for approval of an amendment to event permit requests regarding labor and equipment fees.

According to Miller, a need to redefine the town’s special events exists and the town needs to detail policy guidelines and costs associated with the use of town labor and equipment.

In the last two years, the number of events held in the town has more than doubled. Consequently, support services are now being spread thin between normal duties and special event needs. This is the catalyst for discussion to track and charge for use of town labor and equipment.

“The policy I put in front of you has quite a bit of wording change and additions that outline those different definitions and procedures that would be followed,” Miller said at Tuesday’s work session. “Also included in the documentation that you received is pricing related to equipment and labor that we feel is appropriate costs, also somewhat competitive costs to other sources that private event promoters could go to find those same resources.”

Mayor Rick Meehan asked several questions, starting with if an event’s economic benefit is taken into consideration when it comes to determining the costs due to the town.

“On the basic fundamental level, it would weigh in the same just for comparison sake. However, the opportunity to waive the costs or decrease costs comes into play either by approval of Mayor and City Council or negotiations through Memorandum of Understanding, such as with your more visible events,” Miller said.

The mayor asked if staff considered how the changes would affect current events in Ocean City. Miller responded several events were studied, including the Komen Race for a Cure.

“Although they do have a MOU to allow their costs to be waived, their costs through the town currently are about $5,100. When you redo those needs with the new documentation, the costs come to $6,100, so it is about a $1,000 increase in costs,” Miller said.

The mayor then asked about city employee costs for labor and how it would be determined if the event would cover those costs or the town.

Miller responded there are two different schools of thought as far as city employee costs. If the employee is on duty and the need falls under their expertise, there is no need to apply the cost to the incoming event. The other perspective is if the event requires the use of that personnel where that personnel has an inherent duty that they cannot perform due to being assigned to that event then the event should cover that cost.

“I have discovered in conversation that those two different schools of thoughts seem to apply appropriately depending on which department you are talking about, such as police versus public works. Right now, the thought process is the departments need to apply as they deem fit,” Miller said.

Meehan expressed hesitation over the changes, although the council voted unanimously to approve them.

“I understand the council’s desire to recoup some of the costs of events, and I think you have tried to do that as fairly as possible, but I think it is going to bring some difficult decisions to the council,” he said. “It will be difficult in many instances to weigh the economic benefit with the costs. We work very hard to encourage events to come here and promote Ocean City, and it also a great opportunity for non-profits to raise funds that are then given back to this community and it seems like a double standard there in that respect.”