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Ogdensburg Council wants to count cost of parades, celebrations

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In the Maple City, parades and festivals represent civic pride, homecomings and traditions old and new — but they also sap the city’s coffers.

City Council members are requesting an estimate of how much celebrations like the Seaway Festival and the Lion’s Club Light Up the Night Parade cost Ogdensburg, which provides security and sanitation during the events.

“We’ve asked the city manager to come up with some idea of what these events cost so we can show the public what the city’s contribution is here,” said Councilman Wayne L. Ashley. “The city does a lot of work during the Seaway Festival and other events.”

Comptroller Philip A. Cosmo said Ogdensburg pays police, public works and recreation staff overtime to work at the events.

“It’s nice to have these events but, when they aren’t budgeted, they do crimp our ability to provide services,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of safety concerns surrounding them.”

Matthew J. Curatolo, director of parks and recreation, said he has increased the amount of overtime budgeted for staff.

“I’ve increased my overtime; it seems like there’s more and more events and they require my staff to attend,” he said.

Because the city isn’t notified far enough in advance of some events, not all departments can budget for the staffing expense, said Mr. Cosmo.

“I think there needs to be a little more communication between these groups and the city,” he said, noting the Light Up the Night Parade.

“This has been a great success, but I don’t think the departments put it into their budgets. I didn’t think we were expecting the overwhelming success of it, and I don’t think some folks realize how much behind-the-scenes expenses that we do incur.”

The council voiced appreciation for the groups that hold parades and festivals around the city.

“I think the benefit of the Seaway Festival is a lot greater than the cost incurred, but we’re going to look at it,” said Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley. “Sometimes you just have to absorb the cost.”

Mayor William D. Nelson said he wants to see how much the festivals and parades cost the city.

“I think it would be worth our time to track the expense, to show our contribution to these events as a sponsor,” he said. “We all support these events, they are great for the community and they bring people in.”

In the future, Ogdensburg could consider charging a fee for parade and festival licenses, Mr. Cosmo suggested. Currently, the city does not charge the organizers anything. But in other municipalities, parade licenses help offset the costs of directing traffic and providing security.

Council members said they were not interested in charging the fee, citing the city’s economic malaise.

“It is not something that I would do easily,” Jennifer L. Stevenson said. “I don’t say never, but it takes a lot for the groups that organize these to have the parades at all. It wouldn’t be my first choice.”

The discussion comes during a lean budget season where the council is looking to cut every possible expense. The proposed budget would increase the city’s property tax rate by 10.5 percent, from $16.2113 per $1,000 of assessed value to $17.9140.

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