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Council weighs fees for events hosted by city

City of Tonawanda officials know they want to recoup some of their overtime expenses by charging organizations that seek to hold a special event in the city.

What they don't know is how much to charge.

The Common Council is expected to discuss the issue further and may take action when it meets today.

Under current policies, it doesn't cost much to hold a special event, such as a race or walkathon, in Tonawanda. Organizations have to pay for use of water or electricity, but having a police officer block off an intersection during a race is complimentary.

However, Mayor Ronald Pilozzi noted that the city could be losing thousands of dollars with this policy during a time when Tonawanda could use every penny it can get.

"Everybody gets treated the same when they come to City Hall asking for a service," Pilozzi said last month when he proposed charging fees to host an event. "In other words, if you want a service, you have to pay for a service."

Although there was some initial discussion by the Council to invoice organizations to recoup the entire cost to the city, officials said they are reluctant to go down that road because it would be difficult to consistently track exactly what is being spent on an event.

City Clerk Janice Bodie and administrative assistant Donald Witkowski drafted a proposed event contract last week that charged a flat fee of $300 for the city to host an event. The fee was based on the average cost of using four police officers during overtime periods.

"This is nothing everybody agreed on," Bodie said during an informal session of the Council. "We just came up with something to look at."

Several Council members expressed their reluctance to charge a fee of more than $200. Council President Carleton Zeisz said he had difficulty justifying charging organizations to run charity events in the city.

Some events require little city presence, while others force massive overtime for several departments. So a flat fee would mean many events that cost Tonawanda more would still be money losers.

"Either way, we're not covering these costs," Zeisz said.

"My concern is that we get something for the services we provide," Pilozzi said. "It looks like we're getting away from full value, but that depends on what full value is."

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