‘New’ event fees under effect in Sisters
Last updated 5/31/2022 at Noon
Some folks in Sisters have gotten upset recently at fees charged to local organizations for public facilities used during events.
Such an occurrence happened last week when a citizen posted on social media that the City of Sisters was “robbing the veterans” by charging them a fee for use of the Village Green Park for the annual Memorial Day observance.
Earl Schroeder, the senior vice commander of the Sisters VFW Post 8138, was the person who dealt directly with the City regarding applying to use the park on Memorial Day.
“I’m not upset with the City. They have been very fair. And City Manager Cory Misley is a fine young man,” Schroeder told The Nugget.
The fees have been in place for more than two years — but their impact is just now coming to people’s attention as Sisters gets back into the swing of hosting multiple events after the pandemic derailed them.
Several months ago, there was some backlash that arose around payment required by the Sisters Rodeo Association when they applied to hold the annual Rodeo Parade on Cascade Avenue on Saturday, June 11. Some rodeo members contended that they bring thousands of people to town over the span of a week, and they shouldn’t be charged to hold the parade which fills the sidewalks of downtown.
Association members said they hadn’t been involved in conversations before the fees were established, and hadn’t received any notification about the amendments to the ordinance adopted by City Council regarding public events (Chapter 5.10 of the Municipal Code). It appears that those discussions did take place, but the changes were quickly pushed into the background by the COVID-19 pandemic, which sidelined virtually all of Sisters’ events.
After earlier public discussions held by the City Council regarding public events and a revised fee schedule, a stakeholder meeting was held on August 14, 2019, that included City and Chamber of Commerce staff, and representatives and representatives of the Sisters Rodeo Association, Sisters Folk Festival, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, and Sisters Rhythm and Brews. Proposed changes were discussed and explanations for the changes were given. In January 2020, City Council approved the new guidelines, effective February 22, 2020.
And then COVID-19 hit and public events were cancelled that next summer, 2020, and many events again in 2021. As Sisters is emerging from the COVID-induced hibernation, events are again being scheduled for summer 2022. Some may have forgotten about the changes to public events and the accompanying revised fee schedule. Some may be hearing about them for the first time.
City Manager Cory Misley said, “We completely changed our public events code and our process/fees for associated permits a couple of years ago. We shifted to an actual-cost model of aligning staff times with fees, instead of charging an arbitrary fee. Through these policies and procedures, we treat all organizations equally. Separately, the Council has sole discretion to award funds to community organizations during the community grant process in August.”
Grants can mitigate the financial burden of fees.
The City Council’s rationale in revising fees was that, as Sisters’ popularity grows and more organizations want to hold events in town, changes were needed to sustain the condition of public parks and other spaces, which were being degraded by overuse. Dealing with those impacts requires extra time, effort, and materials on the part of public works staff. Increased events during the summer months also made the parks less available for use by Sisters residents, whose taxes help maintain the parks. The Council argues that residents shouldn’t have to pay for damage done by groups holding special events; permit fees will cover that.
In consultation with public works staff, City Council determined some key changes were necessary to both regulations regarding use of the parks and other public spaces for public events, and fees charged to recover costs associated with administering the public events permits.
The stated purpose of the Public Events Ordinance (Ord. 500 of the Municipal Code) is to “provide a permit system for public events and the special use of public parks, streets, rights-of-way, sidewalks, trails and/or bikeways.” In addition, the ordinance allows the City to “charge fee(s) to recover costs of administering the permit.” Lastly, the ordinance allows the City to “adopt regulations to protect property, public safety, health, and welfare, and control the use of streets and other public facilities and venues in the city.”
As stated in the ordinance, “Public event(s) means any non-City-organized activity, assembly, gathering, and/or event… that (a) is anticipated to involve or attract 25 or more attendees, (b) is reasonably expected to place additional demand on public services, and/or (c) affects the ordinary use of public property. It does not include private social gatherings that will make no use of City property.