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Aldermen table Chilifest after extensive discussion

September 5, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to table discussion of the Junior Auxiliary Chilifest planned for Oct. 19 when board members raised concerns about the event’s impact on traffic, its insurance, its admission cost and the precedent it could set for other events.

Mamie Kosko, event organizer and Starkville Junior Auxiliary representative, came before the board Tuesday to request in-kind services valued at $1,911.81. Joining her was Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership vice president for tourism, who came to make a similar request for the Oct. 12 Pumpkinpalooza, which was approved through the consent agenda.

Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins made the motion to table the Chilifest discussion, which passed 4-1 with Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker against and aldermen Richard Corey and Sandra Sistrunk absent. Perkins said he was concerned about the precedent too many street closures for special events could set for future events. As presented at the meeting, the event would close Main Street from Lafayette Street to Jackson Street.

“I want to commend you for trying to promote your organization ... (but) these are some things that concern me,” Perkins said. “Not only are you asking us to close the street ... but the next thing that concerns me is the in-kind services. City services, their budgets are already stretched overtime. I just don’t think we should expand the list of people (the city closes its streets for during events). Where’s the stopping point? I went ahead and supported Pumpkinpalooza reluctantly. It worked well, but I just don’t want to expand the list.”

Kosko said she began working with the GSDP last year on the Chilifest and the GSDP had suggested the downtown location.

“I understand (Perkins’) concerns, but I think more events for downtown Starkville would do nothing but benefit the city,” Kosko said.

Perkins said he was also concerned with the $5 admission cost for the Chilifest. He asked City Attorney Chris Latimer to investigate the legality of charging admission for people to enter a public city street. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the board already set precedent for such admission at its previous meeting when it allowed the Thad Cochran Research Park to be used for parking for special events. Perkins said this precedent was irrelevant.

“Just because it was approved previously does not make it legal,” Perkins said. “The analogy is, just because a person runs a stop sign does not make it legal to run a stop sign.”

Latimer also asked Kosko about the event’s insurance policy after Perkins said he was concerned about liability. Kosko said she did not have the policy with her at the meeting, but she does have a copy and intends to give it to the city as soon as possible.

“It was complete, I just didn’t have the certificate because I was told we didn’t have to turn it in until 30 days before,” Kosko said.

Gregory said she and Kosko both attended a municipal special events committee meeting for their respective events, where they were informed that the building department needed insurance policies for each event no later than 30 days prior to each event.

“I think it’s just kind of a miscommunication,” Gregory said.

Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas and Starkville Police Chief David Lindley also raised concerns about the Chilifest’s potential effect on traffic flow. While the site plan as presented did not block the Jackson Street intersection with Main Street, it did block the intersection with Lafayette Street, Dumas said.

“(Guests would) be able to pull onto Main Street from the Washington Street intersection, but they would have no way out,” Dumas said. “We need them to have a way out, and as the plan was drawn that night, they wouldn’t. I think it’s a great event and I’m definitely supportive of it, but ... there were some things that were left unturned. Details need to be ironed out.”

Kosko said she was amenable to cutting the intersection of Lafayette Street and Main Street out of the event layout, but Dumas said the city still needs to have the correct plan in front of it before giving approval, and that was why he voted with Perkins to table the discussion. Kosko said she is willing to work with city officials to make the event happen, even to the point of changing the event’s time or place.

“We’d be willing to move, but it’s a date that was chosen with the (GSDP) downtown,” Kosko said. “We’re just hoping to keep that date. We’re up for whatever (Lindley and Dumas) want us to do. It’s a temporary site plan, so they can tell us how they’d like it. We’re wanting to do something good for the city. We’re willing to work with them in any way we can to get it to happen.”

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