After several weeks of discussion, the Tonawanda Common Council agreed Tuesday to start charging organizations a fee to hold races, walkathons and other events in the city.
The change in policy was included with a number of other fee adjustments for Parks and Recreation Department programs.
Before Tuesday, organizations were not charged anything to hold an event in the city besides normal utility costs.
The Police, Fire and Public Works departments allowed city employees to help staff these events for various purposes, such as blocking off streets during a race. However, the rising expenses of overtime and salaries in a difficult fiscal situation forced the city to re-evaluate the policy.
Now people looking to hold special events in the city must pay a $25 application fee. They must also pay $100 if they use the Police Department or Fire Department during the event.
If the Department of Public Works is also required to work the event, then the organization must pay the entirety of that department's overtime expenses. However, officials said the Public Works Department is rarely used for these types of events.
Even though the new fees mark an increase in revenue for the city, some residents feel it is still not enough. Edward Gebera, a frequent critic of how much it costs the city to host Canal Fest, felt this deal was along similar lines. He argued in favor of charging organizations however much it cost the city to host it.
"Why aren't we getting our money?" Gebera said.
Council President Carleton Zeisz replied that Tonawanda should be supportive of charity events. Zeisz also noted the Council is working to curb overtime expenses.
"There's something to be said for having events that bring people into the community," Zeisz said to Gebera. "I know we have some philosophical differences on that. The feeling of the Council was that the benefit from these events is good for the city."
"That's a story I hear all the time -- that it's good for the city," he said. "I don't believe that. You're using my taxpayer money to go towards somebody else's charity event."
Council Member Blake Boyle said that while the new policy would not recoup all the money the city might spend, it is better than not receiving any new revenue at all.
"We're trying to address [overtime]," he said. "Is $100 going to cover it? No, but we're one step closer to it. We're trying to help you out."
Bonnie MacIver-Mariani spoke in support of the Council's move, saying the cost to the taxpayer was minimal. She organizes the annual Lindsay's Legacy 5K race in honor of her late daughter that is held in Tonawanda in November.
"It ends up being 5 cents per resident," she said. "I just know that this one race we run benefits many people. All this goes around."
Although there was some discussion of charging organizations whatever expenses the city incurs, the Council recoiled from that idea last week.
"We don't want it to feel like we're jamming it to people," Boyle said. "We're just trying to balance this out."