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Zephyrhills considers standardizing event fees

Published April 11, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - The city may start charging for its services during community events such as the Celtic Festival - but the preliminary plan already is drawing some heat.

In the past, the city would decide which events carried fees and which ones would be co-sponsored.

"I would just kind of pick and choose," said City Manager Steve Spina, who presented the new plan during Monday night's City Council meeting. The policy would set a standard, "so it's not an arbitrary thing."

City co-sponsorship includes assisting with liability insurance and providing staffing needs such as police officers, firefighters, park employees and street employees for trash pick up.

The typical hourly rates for this type of service ranges from $20 to $37 per employee. The city will charge an additional overtime fee, bringing the cost up to more than $45 per hour per employee.

For a typical weekend event, this could cost event organizers up to $5,000 - and these fees won't be waived if it's not considered a communitywide event.

"Some of these events are not real moneymakers and that may cause problems for organizers, like the Celtic Festival for example," said Councilman Luis Lopez. "I don't know if they could afford to come here."

He said he's waiting for Spina and his staff to come back with details.

"I'm kind of confused on the definition of a citywide event."

The policy could state that the only exempt event would be the annual Founders' Day in February. All other events, including the Chalk Festival and Celtic Festival, may have to pay.

Celtic Festival organizers, who charged $5 per person for the first time this year, were surprised in February when they had to pay a $250 deposit and $105 per day temporary occupational license fee to host the event in Zephyr Park.

Steve Serneels, who started the Celtic Festival seven years ago, is concerned about the new policy and what it could mean.

"From my standpoint, the fact that we're charging admission is just to help with the cost of the event," he said. "I could see perhaps if we were coming in and making a profit." This year's festival drew nearly 6,000 people, he said.

* * *

In other business, it's been one step forward, two steps back in the city's efforts for downtown development. Much of it hinges on hopes to move City Hall to the Wachovia Bank building downtown. But city officials discovered that the building at 38421 Fifth Ave. is owned by Pennsylvania-based American Financial Realty Trust, not Wachovia, and negotiations could get tricky.

An offering price suggested by the company was $1.5 -million. Spina said it's probably worth less than $1-million.

The city also inquired about the possibility of donating the property for tax credit. "This was not an option they were interested in exploring," City Attorney Joe Poblick said.

If they don't get the bank building, other options include redecorating and remodeling the outdated space, or possibly tearing down the building. But city officials haven't lost hope for a move downtown.

[Last modified April 11, 2007, 07:38:27]

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