Parking may not be free at this year's Tomato Festival unless organizers and Reynoldsburg City Council can agree on how to help pay for the festival's electricity needs.
Council discussed the annual festival during the community development committee meeting Monday, June 3.
"The electrical setup for the Tomato Festival is the single largest expense," Mayor Brad McCloud said. "The expense is just under $10,000.
"The equation appears to be that they will need to charge for parking and raise other prices if we can't help with this expense."
McCloud said he spoke to festival organizer Mike Motz.
"My concern is that people may not want to pay for parking and would try to park in the neighborhoods nearby," McCloud said. "Mike Motz said they typically break even on the festival, so even if we give them a loan, they may still have to charge for parking to pay for the loan."
Councilman Chris Long said he knows that fees for vendors will be 50 percent higher for this year's Tomato Festival.
"I have been on the board for the Tomato Festival and I know that they won't know their receipts until the Monday after the festival," he said. "I would be in favor of appropriating the money if it is a loan."
McCloud suggested the city appropriate the full amount.
"We could entertain the possibility that after their books are settled, we ask for a number they have in the black, roughly over $1,000, that they would put toward the bill," he said.
Long said that would mean establishing a "rolling account" with festival organizers.
Councilman Mel Clemens said he would be opposed to a parking fee.
"Parking in my ward would be terrible if they charged for parking," he said. "It is not a city function, but I think that giving them the money and having them pay until the loan is paid back would be good."
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly and Councilman Cornelius McGrady both asked McCloud to get more information from festival organizers.
"The beer garden at the festival was supposed to bring in more money," Kelly said.
McCloud said he would meet with organizers and get back to council, which voted to hold discussion of the appropriation for two weeks.
The committee also discussed appropriating $53,426 for the city's share of a project to pave the parking lot around the Reynoldsburg Senior Activities Center.
Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Brown asked council May 20 to appropriate the already budgeted funds into the park department's land improvement account.
He said the city would receive an $80,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency if the lot were paved with pervious payment that allows rainwater to pass through, and if the project included the installation of 700 feet of rain gardens.
Resident Marshall Spalding told the committee meeting June 3 he uses the Senior Center four days a week.
"I think we need to move this forward and get the lot paved as soon as possible," he said.
Spalding said seniors have fallen on the "cracked, banged-up parking lot" about once a month.
Resident Gary Knapp said seniors might also fall if the city used a pervious paving material. He has spoken at other committee meetings on the subject and is in favor of using regular paving material to improve the parking lot.
"I would like to see an estimate on repaving and repairing the parking lot," he said.
He said if the city would not spend so much for the lot, they could find the money to help the Tomato Festival.
Councilman Mel Clemens said he is not opposed to repairing the lot, but does not like the overall project.
"I oppose the way it is being done," he said. "I don't see the benefit in the way we are doing it."
Brown explained at the May 28 committee meeting that the project would solve existing watershed problems at the Senior Center and its surrounding property. He worked with Kurt Keljo, watershed coordinator for the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, to apply for the EPA grant.