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New fee, policy for events causes confusion

Newly imposed fees for special events in Orchard Park caused a furor with some nonprofit groups that have sponsored community events for years.

Before town officials explained that the fees don't apply to Orchard Park groups, the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce pulled out of sponsoring the annual Fourth of July parade, and some angry Lions Club members wondered about the future of the club's annual classic car show.

The new procedure and fees, including a $50 nonrefundable application fee, came about because many more activities are being planned and proposed in the town, Councilman David Kaczor said.

"We wanted to put a new system in place so we could track and assign resources," he said. "The process was never meant to tax or penalize any of the key groups that contribute to the overall well-being of the town."

But that's not what the letter said.

"It precipitated the conversation," Nancy Conley, executive director of the Chamber, said of the town's letter.

When the chamber received a letter last month outlining fees for special events, it renewed a discussion that surfaces every few years about whether the Chamber should continue organizing the hourlong parade, she said.

"It's a wonderful event, and the community comes out," Conley said.

But since it's held at 8 p.m., when most businesses are closed, the event doesn't forward the Chamber's mission of benefiting business, she said. The Chamber has sponsored the event for more than 30 years.

It will continue, under the town's sponsorship -- without fees. The town wants to separate organizations such as the American Legion and service clubs.

"When they sponsor an event, it's usually to raise money to give back to the community," Kaczor said at last week's Town Board work session.

But the policy letter listing the fees went to both community and outside groups.

"It ended up where a lot of people were concerned," Kaczor admitted.

Kaczor met with Lions Club members and told them the new policy did not apply to them, and the car show will go on.

The policy sets up a procedure informing the town building, highway/parks, police and recreation departments, which must approve or deny a request before it goes to the town and village boards. Recreation Director Ed Leak will accept the applications and disseminate them to department heads, Kaczor said.

"Ed is getting the grief. It really wasn't his idea," Kaczor said.

He said a small committee was set up after the town got a request for a marathon and the police chief said it would take more patrol cars than the town owns to shut down the necessary streets.

"Normally they would have sent a letter to the Town Board, and we would have blindly approved it," Kaczor said.

But now each department will look at requests and decide what services may be needed. Police protection, for example, will cost $80 an hour with a patrol car and $60 without a car, with a two-hour minimum charge. The Town Board will make the final decision on whether an event takes place and whether fees will be charged, town officials said.

The chamber will help the town organize the Fourth of July parade, Conley said.