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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Lack of waivers a sore spot

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:43 PM

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City council members gave the nod to staff to cut $7,000 from the budget previously earmarked to cover the fees for groups that put on parades and other events in Brooksville.

And one city resident — and one of the council's aunts — gave the group an earful, telling them the perception by local groups is that the city no longer supports those who benefit not only the city, but those in need.

That, at least, was the criticism from resident Gail Samples (Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn's aunt) during a recent budget workshop when admonishing them for deciding last year to stop waiving fees for special events.

She added it doesn't make much sense, considering the event and others help the city economically.

One group largely impacted is the Kiwanis Club of Brooksville, Samples said, which annually puts on the Christmas Parade.

Samples said during the parade, parade announcers could be heard making disparaging remarks about city officials after they had to pay the $2,500 for permits that cover road closures, police to work the event and other expenses by the city.

"And do you know how many times the parade was replayed on the television?" Samples said. "It's embarrassing to listen to it."

Former Kiwanis President David Hamilton wouldn't say that members are speaking negatively about the council's decision, but he added that it is frequently discussed among members.

He said members understand the city is facing difficult economic times with declining revenues. Even so, Hamilton said that writing a check for $2,500 is money taken away from assisting children.

"We certainly understand the position the city is in. We're not idiots about it," Hamilton said. "But it doesn't make it any less difficult when we have to write that check. We couldn't do this without the city and we certainly appreciate the years that they were able to waive those fees for us."

Rotary Club of Brooksville Secretary Richard Trump said his group wasn't effected last year by the end of fee waivers, but it likely would be this year.

He said the group is preparing to put on a 5K run in November to help the New Beginnings Youth Shelter. As planning moves forward, he said the club is going to have to include finding ways to pay for the fees in their action plan.

However, both he and Hamilton agree that the fees won't stop them from putting on their events. They'll just have to be more creative in how they'll cover the costs.

Last September, council members voted 3-2 to end granting waivers for special events with Bradburn and Councilman Frankie Burnett voting against the measure. They again voiced opposition to eliminating waivers this year.

Councilman Kevin Hohn reiterated on Tuesday prior to the budget workshop that he opted to stop waiving fees because the practice isn't fair. He said it appeared council members could eliminate fees based on which groups they liked while others had to pay.

If a policy is created that will help council members fairly determine which groups should pay no fees, Hohn said he would support it.

"My issue was with the fairness aspect," Hohn said. "There didn't seem to be much desire by the council to create that policy that provides a fair and equitable sharing of those funds.

"Until then, I'm not in favor of any fee waivers."

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