Covington’s always been a nice place for festivals. But now that secret’s out.
Last month, the City Council received enough requests for the Square Park to essentially shut it down this fall. One group from out of town wanted to hold a witches-themed women’s-night-out party, along with an after-dark 5K run.
The council approved everything, although they did ask the women’s group to confine the 5K to the Square.
The reason was simple: “Right now, we’re pretty wide open” when it comes to rules and regulations, Mayor Ronnie Johnston said at a council work session Monday night.
So this Monday, at its regular meeting, the council will consider event applications and fees to at least cover the costs to city taxpayers.
“We have always eaten that” cost in the past, Johnston said. “You’ve got to impose one standard for all entities, that’s my opinion.”
For the past few weeks, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight has been working with Main Street Covington to come up with such a standard. The list presented at the workshop included application fees that would be collected by the Main Street group, and separate fees to cover the costs of closing roads and paying overtime for needed police officers and city workers.
Knight presented an initial list that was whittled down by the council members present to the following. Note that nothing is official and all must be voted on at a regular council meeting.
For application fees, the proposal is for $150 to close the square, $250 to close it with up to 50 private vendors, and $150 for a parade. Fees to cover city expenses would (might) be $100 to close a single road with no police present, $200 if a police presence is needed, $250 to close the square without police, and $1,000 to close the square with police and for walks or runs requiring street closures.
There would be a cost of $75 levied for damages to road barricades, $45 to keep the city’s downtown public restrooms open after 8 p.m., and $35 per officer if an event lasts more than four hours.
The city’s four official events, including the Fourth of July celebration, Christmas shopping around the square, and the Fuzz Run, will be exempted from such fees.
Other events, including the annual Christmas Parade, might not. That remains to be seen.
“It’s a balancing act, really,” Councilman Keith Dalton said.
City attorney Edward Crudup Sr. said the city shouldn’t discriminate in exempting groups from paying the fees. State law, he said, prohibits the city from issuing “gratuities,” meaning the city can’t pay something for nothing in return. Non-profits, including churches, should not be exempted.
Any fees approved by the council would not apply until Jan. 1, Knight said. All permitted events, and any others approved before year’s end, would be exempted from fees.