Grand County is considering setting up a system to recover expenses for costly special events.
County staff members formed a special event committee to study the county’s event permitting process in March. They presented their findings at a public hearing that opened during the county council meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 20. The public hearing will remain open until the council’s meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Should the council approve the ordinance, the public assemblies ordinance from 1971 would be repealed.
“As a result in the increase of type and number of events, we discovered our existing ordinance to be antiquated,” said Krissie Braun, the county’s community development director.
The new process would allow for a two-tiered process that would expedite small events such as weddings or family reunions requiring little to no county services, but it will also create a mechanism for cost recovery on large events. And although the larger events would have an extensive application process, the staff members expressed that the process will benefit both the event planners as well as the county.
“It will also speed up the process because they will know the exact steps they need to take,” DeLay said.
County clerk Diana Carroll said that with the focus on the recreation economy, there needed to be a better process.
“Marian spends millions of dollars to bring people here and we didn’t have the process once they got here,” Carroll said.
Sheriff Steve White said that the new process could also prevent potential problems caused by event planners that are unaware of legal responsibilities.
“There are some events coming in with no liability insurance,” White said. “It gives them a standard of what to expect and what they’re going to need. It’s going to make the process much easier and much faster. It will give us more time to prepare and put timelines in place.”
DeLay also said that the new ordinance’s requirement for special event planners to approach the county at least 45 days before the event would be scheduled could mitigate issues early.
“We had a situation in the past when two events were scheduled on the same day on the same highway,” DeLay said. “It used every available law enforcement personnel.”
By having more time, she and her staff in the travel council office can consult the events calendar and advise the event planner that resources may not be available on the date they chose. Suggestions for another date could be offered at that time.
“They may not be aware that most of the hotel rooms are already booked for that weekend and their participants wouldn’t be able to find a room,” DeLay said.
The current process is a $500 fee for a large event. The proposed process would have a $100 application fee, with additional charges based on services required.
Sheriff White said that this was a long time coming, and was discussed by Jim Nyland when he was the county’s sheriff.
“The increasing events we’re picking up every year is putting more of a tax on public safety and county resources. We’re asked to provide traffic control, public safety,” White said. “We’re getting more and more requests for street closures. A lot of these races need five or six deputies in order to do it safely.”
To cover the events White has to call up extra deputies and provide overtime; sometimes pulling officers from the Utah Highway Patrol, or deputies from surrounding counties.
“That shouldn’t have to go back to the public,” White said.
By assessing charges to the event itself, it would prevent Grand County taxpayers from having to subsidize events with property taxes.
White said that events will cost his budget between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, depending on the range of events. During the council meeting he said his budget ran $20,000 in overtime for one single event.
He said other departments that are heavily affected include the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the road department, particularly for races that may require road closures and the need to provide detours for local traffic.
White said that despite costs on his budget, he said that he and his staff enjoy working with most of the events.
“We have some really good events that are well organized that are fun to work with,” White said. “One of the best is the Half Marathon. They are a joy to work with every year.”
Ranna Bieschke, the race director for the Moab Half Marathon, which puts on four races each year, said that she was aware that the county was considering making a change, but didn’t know that an ordinance was now being considered.
“As long as it is fair and equitable. Personally I would think it would be beneficial to give priority to locally organized events and have all their paperwork in,” Bieschke said. “We’re the ones who care about this community and have their permits on time. We care about the area we use and it is cleaned up. We give back to the community.”