With the entire season of the city of Pickerington's Summer Concert series on the brink of cancellation, Pickerington City Council was faced with a stark choice: approve a special appropriation underwriting another season or let the series falter, the casualty of a lack of corporate sponsorship.
City Council chose the first option, voting 5-1 at its Feb. 4 meeting to authorize the expenditure of $18,000 as an emergency legislative measure to ensure the Sunday night shows in Sycamore Park go on.
When Giant Eagle Inc. pulled out after six years as primary sponsor of the event after the 2012 season, the city subsidized the 2013 series with money taken out of its General Fund.
City officials said they tried to secure a corporate sponsorship to underwrite all or even part of the $18,000 tab for the 10-week series.
Pickerington Parks and Recreation Director Rebecca Medinger advised City Council's Safety Committee Jan. 22 that she reached out to more than 30 area businesses to see if they would be willing to help foot the bill in exchange for sponsorship benefits.
With no concrete bids in the offing and the deadline to book acts fast approaching, City Council stepped up.
Not all members, however, were on board.
Councilman Mike Sabatino provided the sole "no" vote against the ordinance.
"I have an issue with using income tax money for funding the Summer Concert series," Sabatino said.
City Council President Chris Schweitzer said subsidizing the Summer Concert series is money well spent given its popularity.
"It's absolutely a 'quality of life' issue," Schweitzer said.
"It not only serves Pickerington (residents), we had people come all the way from Dayton last year," he said.
It also helps to have bands with drawing power, he added.
"A lot of these bands have bigger names," Schweitzer said.
"We not only have local bands, but regional acts that bring with them a certain fan base that will travel," Schweitzer said.
Having several hundred people attend a Sunday evening concert allows for the "possibility to showcase" the city and "inject a little commerce" at the same time, he said.
Schweitzer said the reason the ordinance was passed as an emergency measure is because bands need to be booked at least three to four months in advance and the funds must be in place to secure them.
In the future Schweitzer would like to see a full-fledged fundraising effort in place to attract corporate donors in order to sustain the Summer Concert series.
"We don't yet have the resources in place, like a professional fundraising packet, to make it easy for our staff to go out and solicit (donors)," Schweitzer said.