Dayton wrestles with special events policy

A draft the city proposed ran into public concern that it went too far.

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DAYTON — The City Council has tabled a proposed policy on special events after many citizens expressed concerns it was too complicated and burdensome.

The draft discussed at Monday night’s meeting required a permit application for anyone holding a special event in the city. As part of the permit process, event coordinators would have been required to provide a fact sheet, detailed site map and liability insurance, and sign an indemnification agreement absolving the city of legal liability.

The policy was drafted by the council’s Public Safety Committee, chaired by council member Dain Nysoe. Nysoe said it was intended to address shortcomings in the city’s current procedure, including the city’s lack of adequate liability insurance. A policy would also address the use of city staff for special events, and provide legal indemnity for the city in case of accident or injury.

About 40 residents attended the meeting, mostly to voice concerns about the policy, and about a dozen objected to the policy as drafted.

Port of Columbia Manager Jennie Dickinson, who helps plan events as a member of the Dayton Historical Depot board, said the policy would hurt small events that were getting off the ground by burdening them with insurance costs.

“I want there to be a way that fledgeling events can start without being stopped by a city that is too afraid of risk,” she said.

She also noted that the draft policy failed to define special events.

“This document gives the city too much authority to define an event for us,” she said.

Other community members said too few people were consulted in the drafting process. Several people who represent groups that plan events said they had not been consulted about the policy, adding they understood the necessity of having a process in place but that the draft proposal was too restrictive.

Councilmembers Berg, Hall and Bailey also voiced concerns and suggested the city needed to revise the policy before pursuing action on it.

Nysoe restated that the intent was to provide risk management for the city, but ultimately said he was willing to redraft a plan after hearing concerns.

After Mayor Craig George suggested the special events policy be tabled until citizen concerns could be addressed, the council took no action.

The Public Safety Committee plans to make revisions to the policy after meeting with more people in the community.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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