Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloween Parade's Fate May Rest with Council

Is Pottstown's Annual Halloween Parade doomed? A borough
council vote Monday may tell the tale.
Blogger's Note: A correction. The initial version of this post said the council meeting is Monday. That is incorrect. Monday is Columbus Day. The council meeting is Tuesday night.

A vote by borough council Tuesday night may determine whether or not Pottstown's Halloween Parade occurs this year.

The parade is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. and, as in past years, its organizers have asked council to waive the permit fees and costs that taxpayers will then have to shoulder.

Interim Borough Manager Mark Flanders told council Wednesday night that the overall cost to the organizers is more than $5,000.

The 2012 budget only allocated $3,000 for such parade and event waivers and it is already over-budget, council having waived roughly $5,000 in event fees already, Finance Director Janice Lee told council.

Making the decision even more difficult for council was Flanders' observation that "if council chooses not to waive the fees, I'm not sure there will be a Halloween parade."

"It was my understanding that we would have the same arrangement as in 2010 (our first year) and last year (which was rained out)," said P. Richard Frantz, who was speaking on behalf of the Pottstown Rotary Club which is staging the parade, along with the AMBUCS and Parks and Recreation Department as partners. 

"Since we were not planning on this scenario, we have not made an effort to contact additional sponsors. With the parade less that three weeks away, I don’t think we can come up with that kind of money." Frantz wrote in an e-mail to yours truly.

"Rotary and AMBUCS rescued the parade in 2010," said Frantz. "Personally, I don’t want to see it canceled. It has been a tradition for the kids in Pottstown since I was a kid (and that’s a long time ago)."

This is not the first time council has faced this question.

Last year's parade was rained out, so the event became moot. 

In the past, such requests have torn at council priorities; pitting the desire not to spend money not outlined in the budget against the desire to support borough organizations and events that bring people to town.
There is a funding spectre haunting Pottstown's
Annual Halloween Parade

But those events require police coverage, fire police closing streets and directing traffic away from High Street and set up and take-down of barriers, all of which costs money.

Last year, in an attempt to get a handle on it, council adopted a budget that set aside $3,000 for the waiver of such fees.

But various events that have already occurred, with the exception of the July 4th Parade, have already consumed that fund, and then some.

Council President Stephen Toroney said like the July 4th Parade, the Halloween Parade tends to bring people from surrounding townships but puts the cost solely on the backs of borough taxpayers.

"It's a Catch-22," said Councilman Travis Gery. "We are working to attract people into the borough, which is what we're trying to do, to sell ourselves and this is an excellent marketing tool."

Main Street Manager Sheila Dugan said "there is some revenue from the parade" for local merchants who stay open, but yes, I'd like to see more fundraising done because lots of people come, but if it falls on the taxpayers, that burden is an issue."

Is Pottstown's Halloween Parade a treasure to be preserved
or a sinking ship? Council will decide Monday night.
Nonetheless, she added, "it's not something PDIDA would like to see go away."

Lee confirmed that there is money in the borough's reserves, but added "its up to council to decide if this is something you want to dip into reserves to pay for."

Councilman Dan Weand, who heads council's finance committee, said "it is not in the reserves for this purpose."

Councilman Mark Gibson asked if perhaps council could waive part of the fee.

"It's up to council," replied Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. "You can waive how ever much of the costs you want."

Toroney said the matter will be listed for a vote at Monday's council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. and is the meeting at which the public is permitted to speak.

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