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City Council will continue work on new fairgrounds fees

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The Watertown City Council is mulling over what to do about some proposed fees that concert promoters and organizations would have to pay to rent facilities at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

After discussing the issues for about an hour Tuesday night, council members took no action after determining they had no consensus on whether to proceed with the new fees. Council members instructed city staff to continue working on the fees and come back with a recommendation.

“We have a long way to go” before the fees would become a reality, Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, council members discussed the changes but took no action because Councilmen Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Jeffrey M. Smith wanted more information about the new fees. City staff had proposed charging flat fees for patron parking and for operating food concessions at concerts and other events.

Under the changes, the Disabled Persons Action Organization and other promoters would have to pay the city $1,500 in parking fees for shows held inside the municipal arena or $3,000 for outdoor events at the city-owned fairgrounds. It would be up to the concert promoter to decide how much to charge ticket-buyers for parking. In the past, city employees collected a parking fee from each car.

The Parks and Recreation Department proposed the new parking fee after an Aug. 14 Journey concert caused a traffic jam along Coffeen Street and Interstate 81.

Concert promoters and vendors also would be charged either a flat fee of $250 to share food concession sales with the city or $1,000 if the city’s concession stand is closed and they sell food on their own.

Under the current fee structure, promoters pay 10 percent of gross revenues for food concessions, $1,000 for rent and $500 each for setup on the day before the show and takedown the following day.

Council members want to make sure those fees are consistently levied to anyone using the facilities. City staff members also have said they did not want to be in the put in the position of chasing down promoters and organizations to pay them.

The concession fees were prompted by a dispute with organizers of the 28th Bravo Italiano Festival held in the municipal arena on Sept. 13 and 14. The Italian-American Civic Association, festival organizer, balked after learning it would have to pay the 10 percent concession fee.

That would have cost “a couple of thousand of extra dollars for us,” club President Dominic A. Doldo said Wednesday.

It “was alarming” because the club had never had to pay such a fee, and organizers were not told about it until several days before the event, Mr. Doldo said.

Council members ended up waiving the fee.

The Italian-American Civic Association paid the city $1,750 in rental and other fees for the two-day event.

As long as the city is working on new park fees, organizations that use the facilities “should have some input” on what gets implemented, Mr. Doldo said.

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