BROOKSVILLE - What began as a straightforward request for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade fee waiver Monday night turned into a half-hour philosophical discussion on the practice of waiving police and other fees for city events.
Paul Douglas, president of the Hernando County NAACP, eventually secured the $1,660.62 in fees for the parade, set for Monday, Jan. 20 in downtown Brooksville.
"As it stands now we've got a lot of participation, and we honestly believe its going to be a hallmark event in the city of Brooksville," Douglas said.
Planning began just two months ago, and Douglas said the budget is well more than $20,000 with more promises than liquid donations.
Douglas said Walmart, a major source of funds, is donating money for a battle of the bands, and parade organizers are hoping to woo the Florida A&M marching band.
"We're hoping that you can recoup any type of expenditures that you're making on our behalf, and call it the city's behalf," Douglas said.
According to the agenda, the majority of the fee waiver - $1541 of the $1,661 - goes toward paying 13 police officers the time-and-a-half required by the city's holiday pay policy.
Douglas said he had asked the sheriff's office if it could provide deputies but said he thought he missed the deadline.
Pointing out that city taxpayers pay county taxes as well, and the event will include county-wide participants, Councilwoman Lara Bradburn said she would like to see an "equal amount, or at least proportionate amount" of contributions from the sheriff's office.
"We've talked about this with the Veteran's Parade ... with events like it," Bradburn said. "It should be a coordinated event between different jurisdictions, but it's very easy to just lay it at the city's feet. That troubles me."
Bradburn said the sheriff's office has more resources than the city and should provide them.
In October, Brooksville City Council approved $7,000 in fee waivers for the year. By December, the council had passed $8,716 in fee waivers for events such as the Veterans Day and Christmas parades, and the Brooksville Cycling Classic.
Councilman Joe Bernardini agreed with Bradburn and said the city should ask other local and state agencies for volunteers to help with parade details.
Bernardini also said had a problem with paying a single officer $144 to drive the lead parade car, and event organizers should be able to seek out lower rates for parade details.
"We're the guardians of the taxpayers' dollars; that's our job" Bernardini said. "Now if it was my business, my money and I want to pay twice the amount that I could get something for, so be it."
Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett suggested the council hold a workshop at a later date on special events and fee waivers.
Councilman Joe Johnston said under normal circumstances he would have voted against the fee waivers, but said the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade is the type of event the city should be encouraging.
Bradburn suggested Mayor Kevin Hohn, who was not at the meeting, draft a letter asking Sheriff Al Nienhuis to provide half the necessary manpower. Council members eventually voted 3-1 to approve the fee waiver, with Bernardini dissenting.
Reached Tuesday, sheriff's office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said the city hadn't requested anything yet, but the department would be "happy to provide" deputies if asked.
The council voted 4-0 to reinstate Brooksville's vehicle noise ordinance, extending the "plainly audible" distance from 25 feet to 60 feet and excluding permitted events from the rule. Police officers now may write tickets for excessive noise coming from a vehicle's speakers that is plainly audible at 60 feet, or "louder than necessary." First-time noise ordinance tickets cost $250; the second, $500 and the third, $750. If the first ticket goes unpaid, Brooksville police may impound the offender's vehicle. The City Council passed the noise ordinance with a plainly audible distance set at 25 feet in October. Two weeks after the vote, the council decided the ordinance deserved a second look and scheduled a demonstration.
Before the vote Monday, Councilman Joe Johnston said he would like to see quarterly reports from the police department on the citations, and added that an ice cream truck would violate the new ordinance. Police Chief George Turner said Tuesday his officers will need to investigate complaints of ice cream truck music if reported, but also said he didn't anticipate trucks "being an issue" in the city.