City considering charging for events at parks

By Nick Kovatch on October 30 at 7:22am

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The city may begin charging groups that hold large events in Jacksonville parks.

Right now, the city doesn’t charge organizations that hold events like Grierson Days, Chautauqua, and Salvation Army Tree of Lights just to name a few.

Groups that hold such events in the city typically use Jacksonville’s Parks and Lakes Department employees to help with set up and tear down free of charge.

Parks and Lakes superintendent Bruce Surratt says the department just wants to cover its overhead costs.

“When they come to our parks and use electricity and water that comes out of [the Parks and Lakes Department] budget,” says Surratt. “That stuff is not free. We need to look into the future of how we want to handle all these events. We love the people that put these events on and they’re good events, but the money has to come from somewhere or we’ve got to slack off a little bit on all the stuff we do. Allow them to do their own hauling and things like that.”

Surratt says the city used to receive help from inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections to bring picnic tables, folding chairs and other necessities for community events, but that benefit is no longer offered.

Surratt says he hasn’t put a dollar figure on how much the free help is costing the city.

“I haven’t yet because we have to figure in salaries, diesel fuel for the trucks, wear and tear and insurance because it is our stuff,” says Surratt. “I haven’t yet but I’m probably going to here in the very near future.”

Ultimately, it’s up to City Council to decide if it wants to charge for events. Aldermen discussed preliminary rates ranging from $50 to $300 based on what services would be provided.

Surratt says there are many options to consider.

“Maybe we could do some service in-kind and things like that but you’ve got your non-profits, your for-profits, your events within the city of Jacksonville and your events outside,” says Surratt. “There’s several things to think of.”

No action was taken concerning the topic. City Council asked Surratt to look at what Parks and Lakes Departments in other cities charge organizations for set up of events and use of parks.

Pictured above: Photo from Grierson Days at Community Park in 2012.