City funding for community events under close scrutiny

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2005

The soda fountain is dried up.

The grill will no longer be fired up at community events, at least not on the city’s dime.

The city will continue supporting neighborhood and community events with in-kind services: tents, bleachers, tables and chairs, security and manpower to set up and clean up for eligible events.

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But under a new proposed policy, the city will no longer underwrite the costs of foods and drinks at neighborhood and community events not formally sponsored by the city.

&uot;Until now, there haven’t been any guidelines in place that monitor the use of funds for community outings,&uot; said Mayor Bobby L. Ralph. &uot;We need structured criteria and guidelines in place so the manager could better deal with these issues.&uot;

The new policy requires:

nan application packet, which includes budget information on the event, at least 60 days prior to the event. Applications can be gotten through the city’s Neighborhood Development Services and Parks and Recreation departments.

nApplicants are encouraged to discuss their event requests with staff members before submitting applications.

nTo be eligible for city funding or services, events have to further enhance the quality of life for residents, one of the Suffolk City Council’s established priorities for the city.

Last year, the city spent $15,528 on non-city-sponsored events through the city’s parks and recreation department: $4,147 on in-kind services, $11,370 on budgetary items.

Specifically, the city helped foot the bill for the Lake Kennedy Boosters’ Community Day, $7,221 (including $3,000 for food); Nansemond Indian’s powwow, $4,910; Driver Days, $1,239; Holland Ruritan Club’s Founders Day, $968; Suffolk Art League Antique Show, $935; and the Citizens Academy Alumni of Suffolk’s 9-11 Remembrance, $710.

Formal guidelines really aren’t necessary, said Councilman Charles F. Brown, who supported the Lake Kennedy Boosters’ recent community day. That organization was the only one reimbursed for food and drink expenses last year.

&uot;We have always participated in community activities…and I think the city should continue to doing whatever it can to improve the life in the city,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We don’t need to be finding way to limit participation in the community.&uot;

Brown said he believes some council members have issues with the city’s picking up the tab on parts of the Lake Kennedy event. But the event, which has historically been funded through an anti-drug grant, is important to the quality of life in his borough.

&uot;We have a tremendous amount of illegal activities, such as drugs and prostitution, in the area,&uot; said Brown. &uot;We should continue partnering with civic leagues to eliminate vices in the communities, whatever the cost.

&uot;We are trying to solve a problem…and every community does not have the same needs,&uot; he continued. &uot;Cypress is not the same as other communities and it should not be treated the same.

&uot;I just want the area to be treated fairly.&uot;

But the new policy is all about fairness, contend other council members.

&uot;It’s about accountability with city money,&uot; said Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson, who supports the new policy.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett agreed, saying some council members weren’t even aware of the in-kind services that could be tapped to benefit their boroughs.

&uot;If something (a policy) is in place, everyone knows what’s there and what they can request,&uot; Bennett said.

&uot;Everybody will be playing on a level field.&uot;