DUNKIRK – Members of the Juneteenth Festival committee want the city to give them a guarantee of exclusive space in Memorial Park for the next three years.
The Dunkirk City Council on Tuesday heard from Loretta Slaton Torain, who filed a written request for dates through June 2018. She asked Council members to vote against a resolution that would restrict groups from requesting space until nine months before the date of the event.
“When we met on April 3, 2014, we discussed a number of sites to move the celebration,” Torain said.
She reviewed the steps taken after the 2014 event, when television sets were removed from the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds’ Floral Hall building after the event closed. The televisions were presumed to be stolen and were never recovered.
Torain said she agreed to move this year’s Juneteenth Festival to Memorial Park last year and that the relocation had been approved by the mayor.
Since that approval, the city has agreed to allow another event to use the park at the same time. The Juneteenth Festival will share the park on Saturday, June 13, with the Great Lakes Experience Festival.
The Juneteenth Festival will also run June 14.
“It was not our fault that the city forgot that we moved the site,” Torain said.
“We are such good people we believe both groups could co-exist on the site and the city needs to admit that they made a mistake.”
She added, “There are some people in this community who believe we are asking for special treatment. We are not. We are asking for our requests for 2016, 2017 and 2018 be approved and the resolution on the agenda be denied.”
“I offer my apologies for the mix-up,” said Mayor Anthony J. Dolce. “There was no ill intent. We had a meeting, and I think it will be a great day for both groups.”
Councilman Michael Michalski said that he thought the new policy of requiring notice of nine months or less prior to events allows the city time to evaluate events from prior years and make determinations.
“Using the city parks is a privilege,” he added.
Councilman-at-large Willie Rosas said the Juneteenth Festival in the city is part of a national event. He said he is in favor of advance planning for the group.
“I believe it is the right thing to do,” said Rosas.
A motion to amend the request from the Juneteenth Festival to hold the event in the park in June 2016 was approved.
Their additional dates for 2017 and 2018 were removed from the Council motion. Councilmen Rosas and Andy Gonzales voted against the request, saying their vote was based on a need for advance planning.
Councilwoman Stacy Szukala made a motion to change the city policy on requests for use of parks and other city facilities to no sooner than one year, rather than nine months.
The motion was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Rosas and Gonzales opposed.
Also Tuesday, the Council accepted $97,625 in funds from Federal Emergency Management Agency for the November 2014 storm.