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City fee proposal may threaten Cheese Days
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City to enforce deadline on special events requests

MONROE - The City of Monroe Public Safety Committee will be enforcing the 30-day deadline for special events applications, which need approval from the Common Council.

Special event applications must go through the Police Department and the City Clerk's office before being sent to the Public Safety Committee for its recommendation to Council for approval.

The process is in place to verify the events meet all commercial codes and insurance indemnification for safety and liability, Police Chief Fred Kelley said.

Some special event applications are not being submitted in a timely manner, and some applicants do not have required proof of insurance or do not want to provide portable restrooms, Kelley said.

Some special events are required to provide the portable restrooms at their expense.

- Tere Dunlap

MONROE - The City of Monroe is considering requiring organizers to pay for city services - mainly police - used during special events.

But doing so could spell the end of Cheese Days, said Noreen Rueckert, Green County's tourism director.

The Public Safety Committee will discuss the issue at a future meeting. But Rueckert told the committee Monday to make its decision soon, because entertainment contracts for the planned 2010 Cheese Days would have to be canceled.

The event cannot absorb an additional expense for city services, Rueckert said.

Chief Fred Kelley said the cost of police officers range with the activities and whether alcohol is being served. Cheese Days has cost the city "roughly about $18,000" for police, he said. The Street Department may have another $3,000 extra in expenses for the event, Kelley added.

A small event, such as the Taste of Monroe, requires about $400 to $500 extra for police. A parade, depending upon the time and day, could cost more than $2,000, because it requires street closures and traffic contol, Kelley said.

Normally, activities that charge admission, such as the Blues Fest, are billed for having a police presence.

For special events, extended shifts are required, Kelley said, with two-thirds on regular time and one-third on overtime. Another $7,000 is budgeted for hiring extra officers.

Meanwhile, Cheese Days' profit last year was $9,000, Rueckert said. The festival had a long period of running in the red. "Without the beer stand (last year), the festival would have lost about $9,000," she said. Having to pay for city services, Rueckert said, mostly likely would force Cheese Days to fold.

Last year, Cheese Days spent about $205,000 on events such as the parade, stage entertainment, hospitality tent, Family Farm Adventure tent, shuttle rides, marketing, portable toilets and dumpsters. Expenses in 2010 are expected to increase beause of the new streets downtown, which will require the use of frame tents. Drilling holes in the street for anchoring tents no longer will be allowed.

If Cheese Days were to fold, Rueckert said, nonprofit organizations such as Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Historic Cheesemakers, Rebel Soccer, Ag Chese and Monroe Optimists also would suffer. They made about $161,000, Rueckert said, after the 15 percent commission paid to be in Cheese Days.

Local area businesses, hotels, cheesemakers and taxpayers also would lose out on the economic impact the event generates, she said. Public Safety Committee member Chuck Schuringa noted that "hotels and motels are maxed out" during special events, especially Cheese Days, when 100,000 to 150,000 people come to Monroe.

Schuringa and Alderman Keith Ingwell voiced their opposition to charging special event organizers for city services.

"New Glarus has a festival every weekend, and they don't charge," Ingwell said.

Kelley raised the issue Monday, following up on a request from Finance and Taxation Committee, he said.

Street Department Supervisor Tom Boll said cleanup expenses are budgeted for in his department.

"Something out of the normal, we would bill the committee or organization (of the event)," he said.

Kelley and Boll were directed to get input from their departments to bring back to a future meeting. The next committee meeting is scheduled for June 1.