City looks to update special event policy

Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen could consider updating its special events policy during its meeting on Tuesday.

The potential new policy was drafted by the Community Development Department, which provides different payment options for the aldermen to choose when it comes to special event requests.

Director of Community Development Buddy Sanders said updating the policy has allowed the city to downsize its application substantially. Sanders said his department has worked closely with City Attorney Chris Latimer to "tighten up" the language for the special events policy.

"We have always tried to make our applications very easy to follow and simplistic," Sanders said.

For the first cost option, an applicant would pay for both an application fee and a security deposit. The cost would be based upon the number of persons attending the event.

The security deposit would be refundable as long as the organization did not damage the area, or leave trash in the area it chose to host its event.

The second payment option, applicants would be required to pay an application fee, pay for city service and submit a security deposit that would be refundable after the event if no damage or excess costs occur.

"If you need four police officers, and that cost is $200, then your application fee is $200," Sanders said. "Whatever you use is essentially what your fee is going to be."

For the third option, the city would create an annual list of city-sponsored special events. All fees and security deposits will be waived for sponsored events.

All other events will be required to pay for city services unless the Board of Alderman chooses to offer in-kind services. The following events were listed as examples of the traditional events: The Christmas parade, Martin Luther King Jr walk, Starkville High School homecoming parade, Bulldog Bash, the Cotton District Arts Festival, Frostbite Run and GSDP events.

As for the fourth option, the city could create a base of in-kind services offered for an approved special event. The applicant would be required to pay the city for services required in excess of the minimum amount the city offers in-kind.

Sanders gave the example that the city would provide two police officers, two firefighters and two sanitation workers for two hours.

"If you needed more than that, or went over two hours, then you would be charged for those services," Sanders said.

If numbers fluctuate, in terms of the application, Sanders said to keep in mind the application is reviewed by multiple persons that have been to multiple events over their careers here, so they know what to expect.

"If it's a first event, there's always a period of becoming familiar with what that event is going to be like," Sanders said. "Keep in mind, it's all about health, safety and welfare." In cases where there is a larger turnout,

Sanders said there can always be an option to call for additional persons, or cut off the event if it became too rowdy.

Sanders said this process is worth addressing due to the large number of special events this city has for its size. He said in-kind services get expensive, to where the city probably spends $50,000 to $60,000 a year for in-kind services.

For smaller organizations, who may not have the funds, Sanders said there are community leaders and businesses who would more than likely be interested in sponsoring events.

He also said this allows organizers to thoroughly prepare for their event if there is a cost associated with their application.

Sanders said moving forward, the first special event request application was a good start, but it's never good to leave any structured application as is, as time moves on.

"You want it to be dynamic and change," Sanders said. "It's a good thing that the special event policy is being updated."

Here is the proposed application fee and security deposit for the event size:
• Under 100 persons
-Application fee ($25)
-Security deposit ($0)
• 100 to 499 persons
-Application fee ($50)
-Security deposit ($500)
• 500 to 999 persons
-Application fee ($75)
-Security deposit ($1,000)
• 1,000 to 3,900 persons
-Application fee ($100)
-Security Deposit ($1,500)
• 4,000+ persons
-Application fee ($150)
-Security deposit ($2,000)