Disagreements broke out amongst council members over the exact percentage of the fees the city should charge parade organizers to cover police and public works costs.
Councilwoman at-large Maritza Davila called for a phase in approach where the organizers will pony up 20-percent of police and public works cost the city incurs during a given parade. Her proposal would tack on an additional 10-percent every subsequent year until the organizers shoulder 40-percent of the fees and the city 60-percent.
Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, posited an alternative by recommending organizers pay 10-percent of the costs which garnered a strong reaction from Davila.
“This isn’t a game,” lashed out Davila during Tuesday evening’s city council deliberations. “I put a recommendation on the floor and now you’re not going to come and change it.”
“We talked about 10-percent,” said Akhtaruzzaman. He said the last word that was given to the organizers was 10-percent.
“Councilman you went out there and you said 10-percent – you’re not the entire council,” said Davila.
“I said it here, you were outside,” retorted Akhtaruzzaman.
The exchange came after organizers, who were invited for the parade fee discussion, had exited the city council chamber to the hall.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration initially proposed a 40-percent fee, but later reduced it to 30-percent to cover costs the city incurs to provide security and clean-up.
Torres’ office on Wednesday said the mayor finds Davila’s phased in fee structure is acceptable.
With the 20-percent proposal the Dominican parade will pay $25,272 this year or 20-percent of $126,360. The Peruvian parade will pay $18,672 or 20-percent of $93,360, according to city estimates.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, said the city has to reduce the amount it incurs for security and clean-up. Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, suggested using special police officers in parade to keep costs down.
If you use special police you’re not paying as much as you’d pay police officers, said Sayegh. He said one of the primary purpose of the special police was to reduce cost of parade.
“I’m sorry councilman Sayegh, we need police officers out there,” Davila told Sayegh. She said specials are not sufficiently trained yet handle the crowds.
“By using a combination of special and regular police there’s a reduction,” said Mendez. Special police won’t be ready for parades until September, said police director Jerry Speziale.
Mendez called on Speziale to create a formula to calculate the cost for a specific parade based on length and other factors police use to determine costs.
“I know they have to put someone to place the signs on the road. If they told us to put one of your man to put up the sign we can do that,” said Elsa Mantilla, president of the Dominican parade, referring to a public works employee who posts signs up on the road a day prior to the spectacle. She said organizers can get their employees to also put barricades instead of using public works.
“We’re willing to do all these things in order to reduce the costs,” said Mantilla.
The city wants to put the fees in force before July 1st, 2015 when the municipality starts a new fiscal year; however, for organizers they have said their budgets are made and they cannot afford to pay last minute.
Both Mantilla and Carlos Tello, president of the Peruvian parade, said the city’s timing is off. Both raised the prospect of canceling their respective parades. Mantilla said she has avoided sending some sponsors proposals because with the fees it’s not certain if the Dominican parade will happen in September.
“It’s clearly a burden on such a short notice,” said Sayegh. “This is not a sufficient grace period.”
The city has been told repeatedly to charge organizers fees by the state. In the last three memorandum of understandings (MOUs), the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) mandated the municipality collect a reasonable amount from the organizers to make up for money it pays for police and public works overtime.
In the most recent MOU the state repeated the request. Mantilla’s group in 2011 sued the city when it demanded security and clean-up costs from the parade. The Dominican parade may file another lawsuit against the city, warned a member of the group.