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Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

Organizers of races and runs in Charleston provided alternate ideas Tuesday night in response to a proposal to charge fees for the city hosting such events.

The final, amended version proposed charging $2,200 to organizations wishing to use Kanawha Boulevard for their event, and $500 for courses established elsewhere. The bill also allowed the city to modify the fees based on the number of participants, variations in the race route and if additional city employees are needed.

Fees for any nonprofit that had a similar event in 2013 would have had fees waived for 2014. For-profit races and new races would not be exempt.

Charleston currently does not charge any such hosting fees.

Last month, city council scrapped the proposed ordinance and sent the bill back to council's Parks and Recreation committee for further review.

In response, the committee scheduled a meeting for Tuesday night, which was attended by about 10 members of the public and almost a dozen council members.

"I think what a lot of us are looking for is something that's very transparent and fair across the board, said Rebecca Newhouse, who was representing Susan G. Komen West Virginia.

The original ordinance was designed to help the city recoup costs incurred due to hosting races on city streets. City Manager David Molgaard has said the city spent about $45,000 extra on races in 2013 alone.

However, opponents said the bill ignored the economic impact events tend to have for city businesses and that the fees would reduce the amount of funds nonprofits could raise for important causes.

"We're not trying to make up for a deficit, said Councilman Jerry Ware, an at-large Democrat who is also on the Parks and Recreation committee. "We're trying to make sure we're covering the costs for certain events.

Courtney Crabtree, who is involved with the Girls on the Run race, suggested the city could instead impose a tiered fee schedule that could take into consideration several factors, like the size and type of race. She also said council members should look at the economic benefits races bring to the city.

"We definitely need to pay our share but we all need to be viewed as a benefit to this city, she said.

Crabtree also suggested the city could start trying to schedule extra officers for events that happen every year, like the Charleston Distance Run, in such a way that overtime costs would not need to be paid.

Gail Pitchford, president of the CAMC Foundation, said if fees are charged, she favored a flat fee for a course versus a fee charged per runner.

"I'm an advocate for paying for the course, she said. "I can budget for my race easier. I can answer to my donors.

Pitchford said it's already cheap to run in an event in Charleston compared to other cities.

Councilman Andy Richardson, also an at-large Democrat on the committee, said fees in Huntington ranged between $100 and $400, depending on location of the course. He said Charleston's low fees for other facilities, like the golf course at Cato Park were "way off compared to similar facilities.

Shannon Holland, who helps organize the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run, said she found that hosting fees charged by cities across the country vary greatly.

"There's absolutely no trends, she said. "It's ultimately the needs of the community.

Still, race organizers told council members about the effect the fees would have on fundraising efforts.

Peggy Short, who was representing the Capital High School Band on the Run race, said the event raised $2,600 for the band last year, and a fee would, of course, reduce the amount the band would raise. She said it takes about $100,000 annually to run the band.

Short also said the band, in turn, provides high schoolers a form of exercise, thereby helping the health of the community.

"The funds we raise sustain the band, she said. "That's their exercise.

Councilwoman Shannon Snodgrass, a Democrat representing the Oakridge Drive area on the committee, said she would support coming up with a course that the city could provide at no cost to organizations.

Committee members said they would incorporate the ideas into whatever proposal is brought back to council.


May 28, 2014




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