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‘Relay For Life’ permit fee discount approved

By Staff | Dec 3, 2008

Never let it be said that Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham does not whole-heartedly support the efforts of the American Cancer Society, as well as the struggles of the suffering people the organization wants to help.

“This is an organization that is very near and dear to me,” said Denham.

That being said, however, Denham joined Councilman Marty Harrity in casting his vote Tuesday against a discounted special event permit fee for the annual “Relay For Life” event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society.

“It is a difficult position to be in,” said Denham when the petition was read to the Council. A newly established schedule of special event permit fees this year elevated the Cancer Society’s fees from a total of $350 last year to $1,390 this year.

“Every event like this is in support of some sort of charity,” said Denham. “We need to make a decision that we allow every good cause, or none.”

Councilman Jim Jennings expressed concern about the marked elevation in the fee and asked how the Council could, in good conscience, ask the ACS to pay more this year than they had last year.

“Last year they paid $350. They cleaned up after themselves, and did everything that they promised to do,” argued Jennings.

Actual expenses to the City for the event, which is scheduled to take place at Sanibel Community Park on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21 and 22, total $535 for police presence and $120 for the rental of a safety fence, as well as the cost of electricity. ACS volunteers will be taking care of putting the fence up and taking it down, as well as cleaning restrooms and other site cleanup at the conclusion of the event.

Sanibel resident Tom Krekel, who identified himself as a member of many charity-based organizations including the Lions Club, addressed the Council during the public comment portion of the discussion and said he would be committing an act of heresy as far as those organizations were concerned.

“But I agree with [Mayor Denham],” said Krekel. “You made policy, and you must apply it equally to all these non-profits. If you make exceptions here, you will have to make exceptions everywhere.”

Councilman Peter Pappas took exception to the elevated costs to the ACS and urged his colleagues to “charge what it costs.”

Richard Johnson, a Sanibel resident and “Relay For Life” volunteer, said he sympathized with the Council’s struggle on the issue, and recognized that the event would generate hard costs to the City, but added that it would not prevent him and the American Cancer Society from asking the City to waive its permit fees for this event.

“Everyone has been touched by cancer,” said Johnson. “There is no one who is untouched by this terrible disease, and we want every dollar raised to go to finding a cure.”

Sanibel resident Herb Rubin said it was “unconscionable” that the Council would be considering waiving the special events fee in this time of economic uncertainty.

“It is irresponsible that you would be adding to expenses by financially supporting any organization,” said Rubin.

Councilman Marty Harrity responded to suggestions that the fee structure be re-examined to provide discounts for non-profit organizations by pointing out that the fee schedule had already been reviewed and voted by Council.

“Everything is a hard cost, and fees are based on actual expenses,” said Harrity. “If you do it for one, you have to do it for them all. I’m in favor of the fees being what they are.”

Council ultimately voted on the collection of a special event permit fee discounted by $675, the remainder of which would cover the actual expense to the City of police protection, fence rental and electricity.

The measure passed by a margin of 3-2, with Denham and Harrity dissenting.