Parrish votes no on city funding two popular community events

Susanville City Administrator Dan Newtown, right, and Public Safety Director Mike Bollinger, center, recognize former firefighter Zachery Hoffman on his promotion to engineer at the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday, June 5 meeting.

Newly elected city councilmember Patrick Parrish continues to solidify his role as the watchdog of city taxpayers’ purse at the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday June 5, meeting.

Parrish, who last month voted against city funding for the Farmers Market in Pancera Plaza, suggesting  the event’s sponsor, the Lassen Area Revitalization Project, should “have some skin in the game,” cast the lone nay votes opposing the city’s funding for the Lassen County Fair Parade and the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce’s Main Cruise.

Susanville City Councilmember Patrick Parrish.

According to the staff report, the city’s public works department reports the city estimates it will spend nearly $7,000 on the two-hour Fair Parade Saturday, July 20, to close Main Street (Highway 36) between Rob’s Way and Cottage Street.

According to the staff report, the total estimated cost to the city for the Fair Parade is $6,881, including $761 for four firefighters, $2,615 for nine city staff members, $2,950 for 10 police officers and $555 for special event insurance. The state does not charge the city for an Encroachment Permit to close Highway 36 (Main Street). Except for the special event insurance, the remainder of the cost — $6,326 — goes to pay wages for city employees — public works staff, Susanville police officers and firefighters assigned to work the event.

According to the staff report, “This event requires three street division crew members to sweep Main Street (Highway 36) before and after the event and nine Public Works Department employees to set up, take down traffic control signs and assist 10 police officers (and) four firefighters with traffic control.”

The city estimates is will cost the city $983 for the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce’s Main Cruise Classic Car Show and Shine held Saturday, June 29. According to the staff report it will cost the city nearly $1,000 in staff time to close North Street from Grand Avenue to N. Weatherlow between 8 and 10:30 a.m. The city’s estimated cost of $685 is for four police officers and $298 for two public works staff. 

According to the staff report, “The Lassen County Chamber of Commerce hosts a successful annual Main Cruise Classic Car Show and Shine in Memorial Park. This event has been held in Memorial Park the past five years. The event will host cars to be showcased in Memorial Park, and the chamber will work with city staff to mark and flag the areas of the park that will need to be avoided when parking cars for display at the event … The chamber is requesting the road closure from 8 to 10:30 a.m. to reduce city street congestion of classic cars and street vendors as they enter Memorial Park to ensure the safety of our community as they set up for the event.”

Parrish made it clear — he does not oppose these events — he opposes the city taxpayers picking up the tabs for them.

Who should pay — the city taxpayers or the event sponsors?After the city’s Public Works Director Bob Godman introduced the item for the council, Parrish asked if this was a Lassen County Parade?

Godman said while the fair is a county event, closing Main Street is up to the city.

“I brought it up with the Farmers Market, so I have to bring it up now,” Parrish said. “Should the taxpayers be on the hook for the $6,800 dollars if this is a Lassen County parade? So, we’re paying for the fire department, public works, insurance and so forth. Is this something the taxpayers of Susanville should pay for? I know it’s a public good and it brings a lot of people, but … ”

Fair Manager Kaitlin Midgely addressed the council. She said the fair was part of the county and not an independent, for profit organization. 

“All our vendors are changed the city’s sales tax during the week of fair,” Midgely explained. She said the amount of sales tax collected by the city from the fair’s vendors more than covers the cost of the parade.

“I asked how much money does this parade bring in for the city,” Parrish said, “and there were no numbers … Why can’t Lassen County pay for the parade if they want it to go on? The more I think about it, the more the city council keeps doing the same thing. People ask the city to close Main Street. We pay for it, and what does the city get in the end? I mean, yeah, they come to hotels, we get sales tax from vendors, but is there any proof we’re getting that money back?”

Councilmember Curtis Bottle said it would be easy to look at how much money the fair grosses to calculate how much revenue comes back to the city, but, “The impression I get from the public is the public wants us to spend their tax dollars for this. That’s what I get.”

“As of now, every other week, someone’s asking the taxpayers to pay for these events, and are we getting our money back?” Parrish asked. “Can’t they (the county) throw their own parade and pay for it? As of right now, it’s under their banner, but we’re paying for it … I can’t go to any other city and ask to close the street and you pay for it … They want to throw a parade under their banner, and then they ask us to pay for it. I don’t get that.”

Mayor Mendy Shuster said she thinks it’s a tradition.

Parrish said he understood tradition, but this is a dollars and cents thing. He suggested going 50/50 with the county. 

Councilmember Russ Brown noted some people are residents of both the city and the county and the parade benefited everyone.

The council voted 4-1 to fund the street closure for the parade.

Parrish continued the same kind of argument when the council considered the cost of the the street closure for the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce’s Main Street Cruise.

Chamber President Chris Johnson said the event attracts about 100 car owners from out of the area — “different people coming here, spending a lot of money … We’re not doing this for profit. We’re trying to build a community.”

He noted these people come and spend money at restaurants and hotels and that money spreads through the community. 

“We want them in our area spending money, and being part of the community,” he said. “I think any town would help with that … I want to bring 100 people to your town. We’re gonna do a parade and we’re gonna ask you to shut down the city (street), and it’s going to cost you a couple of thousand dollars. We’re going to have a hundred people you don’t have — in your town for 48 hours. Anybody would be willing to do that, right?I think you ought to take into consideration what the economic impact actually is. When you spend this little bit of money, it’s tenfold.”

And he added the street closure actually was a safety issue, and he noted, some of the people being used, such as police officers, are already on duty, so they’re not really an additional cost.

“We’re not asking for overtime” he said. “We’re not asking for stuff. You’re going to pay those people their fees anyway whether they’re helping us or helping someone else. 

David Teeter, representing the chamber, said if the council charged every group for every event, the city would only save about $30,000.

“It’s penny wise and pound foolish,” he said. He suggested the chamber could show how much it spent on the event, and maybe the city would want to cover half of that cost.

“Councilmember Parrish is, I believe, trying to meet his duty, I think it’s just a little misguided on my part,” Teeter said, “The rest of the council seems to understand that.”

“I know I come with a different mainframe or perspective when it comes to spending other people’s money,” Parrish said. “People say collaboration — I’m not sure what that collaboration is when someone comes to you with an idea and asks you to pay for it … I am for this event … My loyalty is to Susanville and the taxpayers … We’re spending money and I get it for good causes, but when other people have an event, do they have the $983 to pay for it?”

He estimated the event would have to earn about $42,000 to repay the city.

In the end Parrish said he like to see the city split the costs with event sponsors.

Shuster asked about the city’s ban on alcohol at city parks because the chamber plans to sell adult beverages at the event.

City Administrator Dan Newton said the city municipal code does restrict the use of alcohol at the park, unless a permit is obtained.

The council voted 4-1 to fund the street closure for the Main Cruise.