by Joshua Maloni
The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees is still struggling with whether or not to charge festival organizers a fee to cover safety and maintenance costs. At Monday's work session, Mayor Terry Collesano revealed the community's seven summer festivals cost the municipality almost $4,200 in Department of Public Works labor, and upwards of $11,000 in police services.
"We've talked about this several times. ... They're getting to be very costly for the Village of Lewiston," Collesano said.
"During these (economic) times, when it's harder and harder for this elected board to come up with covering the cost of anything - other than charging more through taxation of your property taxes ... we've got our hands tied; we're limited to what we can charge, what we can bring in, as far as revenue from either taxation or in fees," he added. "So, the thought has come upon us that it's costing us so much extra that we should actually start charging either a fee or a percentage of the overall cost, or profits, I should say, from these festivals."
Trustee Ernie Krell suggested charging festival organizers 50 percent of the village's cost.
"We've got to come up with a figure, because it's costing the village too much," he said.
The rub, Trustee Vic Eydt said, is that not all festivals are equal. Some - such as the Art Festival, Jazz Festival and Peach Festival - make a much larger profit than others - say, the Smelt Festival or the "Summer of '69."
"Some of these festivals, how we come up with a figure, that's what we've got to figure out," Eydt said. He added, "They're not the same size. ... I think you have to look at each individual festival."
Trustee Terri Mudd said, "A percentage gets that job done, but I wonder if it's the right thing?"
Collesano asked the board to come up with suggestions and present them at a future work session.
In a prepared statement, the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce - the Village of Lewiston-based tourism arm for this portion of the county - wrote, "A discussion of the assessment of fees to various festivals to cover costs incurred by the Village related to these events that took place (at) the Village of Lewiston Board Meeting on March 7 is a reason for some concern to the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce and many of its members. We would like to encourage the Village Board to meet with these festival providers and seek alternative means to approach such costs as many of the festivals are run by not for profit organizations that currently can barely make ends meet and would be adversely affected by any new fees. These festivals and events provide the stimulus that drives the economy in the Village and it is important that we provide the support necessary to make them successful. The Chamber would be pleased to offer its services to provide a mechanism for initiating discussions among all interested parties in the hope of attaining a solution that is suitable for everyone."
The Village Board will hold its regular meeting on Monday, March 21, at 6 p.m. The next work session is set for 6 p.m. on Monday, April 4. Both events will take place at the Red Brick Municipal Building, on the corner of North Fourth and Ridge streets.