Special Event Fee Policy Overhaul Continues

Resort officials are one step closer to implementing a new special event fee structure.

On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted unanimously to approve revisions to the town’s private events policy and to move forward with a new fee structure that was introduced last fall. Special Events Director Frank Miller told officials this week the revisions, which focus on permit requests and town-owned equipment and labor usage for private events, were the first to be made since 2014.

“As you may recall, back in September the council had approved our fee structure, our application fee, space use fees, cost recovery, and so forth,” he said. “What we’re bringing in front of you today is the policy and procedure definitions and documentation that will replace what we had initially put into place back in 2014. So this is the first major revamp we’ve done since that time.”

In a work session last fall, the council voted to move forward with a revised special event fee structure and to bring back those changes in the form of a resolution. As part of that process, staff this week presented officials with revised policies and procedures that reflect the new fees and approval processes and update equipment and labor usage fees as it relates to private events.

Miller told the council Tuesday changes to the manual include the introduction of a tier-based special event model, new late fees and new submission deadlines, among other things.

“Our procedural section has changed,” he said. “This is the first time we’re actually including real costs.”

Miller said the revised manual also changes how the labor costs are tracked.

“For tiers three and four, the cost of labor will be billed for specialized staffing needs based on event requirements and as dictated by event site scope of work,” he said. “So we’re defining now what costs get applied and what doesn’t.”

Miller noted that if an event producer requests a shuttle service, or if multiple fire marshals are required on site, it would be billed based on hours.

“Things that wouldn’t be covered are things like unplanned, unscheduled storm cleanup, the police adding staff for issues on streets during events,” he explained. “So if we have things going on in the general streets during the event that’s not billable. And it’s also been defined that those types of costs that are not billable no longer will be tracked using the specific event project code.”

For his part, Councilman John Gehrig said he didn’t want to see the town charge itself for labor. Officials said the revised manual addressed his concerns.

“This tries to clean up and make clear to the departments what you should and should not be charging or tracking through the event code,” City Manager Terry McGean said. “These were not in the policy in the past.”

Gehrig also questioned the new submission deadline that was incorporated into the policy and asked if staff was willing to make exceptions for certain events. Miller said staff would be open to providing some leeway in the revised manual.

“We’re going to look at every opportunity,” Miller replied. “And if the opportunity comes to us and it’s very turnkey and can be done in a short period of time, it’s going to be an exception to the rule. But we will look at every opportunity, and if it’s an opportunity for the town we’re going to entertain it.”

McGean said he had no problems providing some leniency in terms of the application deadline. He did, however, insist that the town implement penalties for promoters that don’t meet certain benchmarks outlined in their agreements.

“If there’s anything I feel really strongly about in terms of deadlines, that’s it,” he said.

Following further discussion, Miller told council members the town had plans to introduce its new private event application in mid-February. He said the new fee structure would take effect once the revised policies and procedures manual was approved.

“This is the final step,” he said.

The council voted 6-0, with Councilman Will Savage absent, to approve the revised manual and move forward with a resolution to adopt the new fee structure.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.