Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
A proposal to charge fees for distance runs and walks in Charleston is now moving through city council.
The proposed fees, listed in Bill No. 7616, would charge races $500 for use of an established race course by the city. That fee "guarantee(s) the use of the approved course and the services of four uniformed police officers for traffic control. Those courses would include routes on the East End and in Kanawha City, for example.
However, races on Kanawha Boulevard would be charged $1,000, plus a fee of $1 per participant. The fee includes the services of eight police officers and the city street department.
Coordinators of events may request a waiver of the fee through council's Parks and Recreation Committee. According to the bill as written, the committee will have $20,000 earmarked to waive fees.
Events sponsored by the city would be exempt from the fees.
Rod Blackstone, assistant to the mayor, said the purpose of the fees is to help the city offset expenses related to hosting runs and walks.
"As more and more groups want to use walks and runs as fundraisers, it's leading to overtime costs for the city, he said.
Last year alone, runs and walks cost the city $41,000, and previous years have accrued costs been between $20,000 and $30,000.
"We've seen a significant increase, Blackstone said.
For the city, a typical run or walk primarily incurs the use of the police department, which helps patrol the event and direct traffic, and the street department, which conducts the necessary street closures.
Other city personnel, like fire department employees, are also used.
Previously, the city has provided those services at no cost to the event organizers, but budget constraints make that practice less feasible.
Blackstone said city officials want to be "responsible stewards of city resources and taxpayer dollars.
"We're taking a long, hard look at everything related to the budget, he said.
The ordinance also revises and simplifies city code concerning usage fees at city recreation properties. For example, a flat fee for meeting space is proposed for all municipal recreation centers, and references to admission prices for city pools (which are now free) are removed. A reference to renting the now-demolished Watt Powell Stadium would also be struck from city code.
In the past year alone, numerous nonprofits have held runs or walks in Charleston as fundraisers. There have also been a few for-profit entities that have had races in the city.
Some race organizers have expressed concern over the bill, including an organizer of the Girls on the Run race who voiced her opinion to city council last month.
Bill No. 7616 is set to go through council's Parks and Recreation and Finance committees before getting a chance to be passed by the full council.
As of Wednesday, a Parks and Recreation committee meeting had not yet been set.
Finance committee will meet tonight for budget discussion, but the race fee bill will not be on the agenda.
Finance committee will likely meet next before the April 7 city council meeting.