Town Council defers action on special events policy

The town’s role in local events will come into full focus next month, when Town Council is expected to take action on a special event policy that spells out Ashland’s role in the numerous special events held in town.

The band “Sons of Zebedee” performs during Saturday’s Ashland Street Party, held at the library plaza. This event, as well as many other signature events in town, could be affected by a “special events policy” now before Ashland Town Council.

The band “Sons of Zebedee” performs during an Ashland Street Party, held at the library plaza. This event, as well as many other signature events in town, could be affected by a “special events policy” now before Ashland Town Council.

At issue is the stretching of town resources to cover special events and a disparity in how Ashland allocates its support to different events.

Tuesday night, Council deferred action on the plan after hearing from concerned stakeholders, worried that the policy will affect their respective events.

Ashland Police Chief Douglas Goodman Jr., who also heads up the committee that studied the issue, went over the draft policy, which he said reflects best practices statewide.

“We were getting inundated with requests to do new events, which was something we were really wrestling with and that’s really what started us going down this path,” Goodman said.  “This is a complex issue. This is a difficult issue. If this was easy, we would have solved it already.”

As it stands, organizations that hold events on public property would first have to obtain a $1 million general liability insurance policy.

Foot races would be limited to the five currently held in town. The policy would also require Town Council approval for bike races that require closing town streets.

The guidelines call for eliminating the practice of providing organizations with the town’s stage, tent and sound system. Goodman said some of those items are reaching “the end of their life and are fairly costly to replace.” Instead, organizations who approach the town will be provided with a list of private entities that rent similar equipment.

The policy also dictates that local events should become self-sustaining, meaning they will not receive financial support from the town. Two exceptions include the Olde Time Holiday Parade and Fourth of July Parade.

The town currently has no policy on how resources are allocated for special events, even though Ashland has been an event partner since 1969 when the first Olde Time Holiday Parade was held.

Goodman said that there are a total of 16 events that currently require town resources, excluding athletic events and graduation ceremonies or other smaller events.

Dec. 2011, staff aired concerns that centered on balancing special event needs with the need to deliver core services and the unbalanced way town resources are allocated to different events. Goodman said that some organizations receive services free of charge while others pay for town resources, which he said gives him pause.

“I personally have an ethical dilemma with this varying scale that we have right now, especially when we don’t have anything on paper to delineate those variances,” Goodman said.

Town Council is expected to take action on the policy when they meet Oct. 15. However, further discussion will likely be needed on allocation and storage of special event equipment.

No policy would take effect until Jan. 1, 2014.

Posted on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm