Polson proposes charging fees for special events

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As Polson prepares for another summer full of festivities, city officials are proposing a new fee schedule to recoup the cost of hosting special events.

“We’re not trying to discourage events, but we are trying to be fiscally responsible…and make sure everyone pays their fair share,” City Manager Mark Shrives said at a city commission meeting last month.

Proponents of the proposal argue that hosting events places a large burden on the city’s streets and parks departments, which are often responsible for picking up trash and repairing damages.

According to a presentation provided to the city commission, catering to special events currently eats up nearly $30,000, or 17 percent of the Polson Parks Department’s budget each year.

“It’s just growing beyond our capabilities,” department Director Pat Nowlen said at the meeting.

Despite the strain on resources, city officials cautioned against creating overbearing regulations.

“Make it simple,” Commissioner Stephen Turner said. “Polson definitely has a reputation for being hard to work with.”

Mayor Heather Knutson noted that the double-edged nature of the proposal, citing a desire to promote Polson, while at the same time holding event organizers accountable for damages.

“That gets a little uncomfortable for us because were certainly don’t want to be dissuading people,” she said.

In a phone interview on Monday, Nowlen said he had reduced the proposed fee schedule in light of the feedback. While the figures are still subject to change, Nowlen said the most recent edition included fees of $50, $80 and $100 for groups of 100, 500 and 1,000 people respectively.

As of press time, the proposal was pending approval by the parks board and scheduled to come for a vote before the city commission on April 17.

Aside from a $100 security deposit (which Nowlen said often goes uncollected), the city currently does not charge standard fees for hosting special events. He said the proposal was drafted to mirror similar regulations imposed by cities across the area.

Nowlen said that local sports leagues have expressed support for the proposal and that he does not expect it to deter event organizers.

“I don’t think we’re talking anywhere in the amounts that they would have to worry about,” he said.

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