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Cheese Days gets assurances from city
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MONROE - On Wednesday, Police Chief Fred Kelley, Mayor Ron Marsh and Alderman Mark Coplien made assurances that Cheese Days 2010 will go on.

Coplien, chairman of the city's Salary and Personnel Committee, Kelley and Marsh spoke with Virgil Leopold, president of Cheese Days Inc., and Noreen Rueckert, director of Green County Tourism, late Monday after a meeting of the Public Safety Committee.

"I had a talk after the meeting with Noreen Rueckert and Virgil Leopold and specifically told them that the Salary and Personnel Committee, along with Fred and the mayor, will help wherever needed to ensure Cheese Days will not be affected on the city's personnel side," Coplien told The Monroe Times on Wednesday.

Leopold said the city is doing everything it can and believes the relationship will work out.

Leopold spoke with Coplien and Alderman Jan Lefevre after the committee meeting.

"I was pleased to have two council members speak to me in support of Cheese Days and understand how important it is to Monroe. We appreciate what the city does and hope to continue. I understand what the city faces (with its budget), and they said they would do all they could," Leopold said.

Leopold and Rueckert attended the committee meeting with concerns that the city may require reimbursement for municipal services from applicants for special events.

The Monroe Police Department incurs costs of about $18,000 for officers on duty for the three-day event. The city sets aside $44,400 over two years to cover work done by the Street Department, Parks and Recreation Department and for supplies during Cheese Days.

"The costs will have to be budgeted as they were always, and that may come to as a reduction in (general city) service somewhere else," Coplien said. "This all depends on the budget issues this fall for 2010."

After being in the red in 2004 and 2006, Cheese Days made a profit of about $9,000 in 2008, Leopold said.

"Selling beer on the Square made the difference," he explained.

Cheese Days, Inc., sold beer in plastic cups from its beer tent.

The Cheese Days' beer tent made $18,500, according to figures presented to the committee by Rueckert. Without that, the event would have created a $9,000 loss, she said.

The City Council voted for the first time last year to allow people to drink on the Square during Cheese Days; a controversial issue among aldermen and some residents.

The good weather and people's responsible drinking on the Square made last year "a wonderful year for Cheese Days," Leopold said.

Members of the Public Safety Committee on Monday expressed opposition to the idea of charging special event organizers for city services, noting that the influx of 150,000 people to Monroe fill hotels and motels during Cheese Days.

Leopold said the event is big not just for Monroe but for the entire county, with people staying at other places in the county.

"Cheese Days is a vehicle," Leopold said. "It honors our heritage and our cheesemakers and produces PR."