A request from the organizers of the second annual Cape Cod Canal Day to waive all fees associated with the use of town property drew some opposition from town leaders and residents alike.
Critics argued that the sponsor of the event, the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, is solvent enough to pay any and all fees imposed by the town.
Cape Cod Canal Day is scheduled to be held Saturday, September 14, from 11 AM to 4 PM at Buzzards Bay Park. It is the second year the event will be held. Last year, the event drew several thousand people who enjoyed food, beer and wine, entertainment, and games.
On TuesdayJune 11, the board of selectmen eventually voted to waive the fees — but not before objections were raised.
The strongest critic of the request was Buzzards Bay resident Gary O. Maloney. During the selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Maloney argued that the town’s Use of Town Property fee schedule does not allow for the waiving of fees.
He acknowledged that the fees were waived last year for the inaugural Canal Day “in the interest of unity and building good will.” He said that he sees a yearly trend coming.
“If [the selectmen] are waiving it every year for them, why do we have a fee structure at all?” he said.
At the selectmen’s meeting, Canal Region Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Marie J. Oliva made two requests. The first was for a one-day beer and wine license, which the board approved. The other was for a waiver of all fees associated with he use of Buzzards Bay Park.
Bourne’s Use of Town Property Fee Schedule calls for all commercial events to pay a number of different fees, including a $75 non-refundable application fee. Commercial events include nonprofit groups like the chamber of commerce.
Mr. Maloney described the chamber of commerce as having “the deepest pockets” of all the organizations that would want to use the park. He suggested that the chamber has plenty of people and associates that could help defray the cost of the fees. He even offered to pay the chamber’s $75 application fee, similar to a gesture he attempted to do last year, he said.
“I have my checkbook with me, and if they’re so broke they can’t pay, I’ll pay the $75 fee,” he said.
Cape Cod Canal Day is free to attend, and launched a new tradition in Bourne, following the loss of the Bourne Scallop Fest. The Scallop Fest moved to the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in 2014 after 45 years in Bourne. The festival did not do well financially in its new home and after the 2017 event, the chamber decided to end it.
Proceeds from the Canal Day event help pay for scholarships to four area schools, the chamber’s free summer concerts series and management of two visitor centers for the traveling public. While folks attended for free, businesses paid for sponsorships, which last year ranged from $250 to $1,000.
In addition to the application fee, there is a base rate of $20 for water use. That fee could be higher, depending on a meter reading following the event. There is also a $40-per-hour electricity use fee, and a security deposit payable upon approval of the event application.
For commercial events that anticipate more than 500 people attending, the security deposit is $500. That fee is refunded, in full or in part, following cleanup of the park after the event is over.
If the chamber had to pay all of the fees listed in the policy, it would come to more than $800. Ms. Olivia requested the fee waiver based on the chamber’s status as a nonprofit organization. She said the chamber does not profit from the event, but it does benefit the town by bringing in business and funding scholarships for local students.
“We requested the fees to be waived,” she said. “It’s not a lot, but as a gesture of good will because this is a community event and because it is free admission. I think that would warrant it,”
Selectman James L. Potter said he had a problem with waiving the fees. Mr. Potter felt that having approved the beer and wine license, there would be substantial revenue generated from those sales that the fees could be paid.
Ms. Oliva explained that the chamber does not get any of the beer and wine sales profit. That goes to the company that contracts for that business, she said. The only revenue the chamber gets is from charging the food trucks $350 each, as well as any money raised from the event’s 39 business sponsors, she said.
She added that money raised by the event is invested back into the community by paying for performers who entertain during the chamber’s annual Summer Concerts in the Park series, as well as other programs offered by the chamber.
“That’s how it works; it’s about the community,” she said.
The board voted in favor of waiving the fees by a 4-1 vote, with Mr. Potter casting the negative vote.