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City weighs waiving summer concert fee

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The city of Watertown and the Disabled Persons Action Organization may be back in harmony after the groups met for about an hour Tuesday.

City officials may back off from charging a new $640 fee the DPAO would have to pay for the summer concert season at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

DPAO and city officials met Tuesday to talk about the new fee for electrical and sewer hookups to trailers that will be used as entertainer dressing rooms.

Afterward, Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Erin E. Gardner said she agreed she would approach the City Council about waiving the fee this year because she had informed the DPAO about it last week.

Saying it was “a good meeting,” Joseph L. Rich, vice president of the DPAO’s board, said afterward he believes the matter has been resolved.

“We had a heart-to-heart discussion about it,” he said. “I think it went very well.”

In what she described as “a compromise,” Mrs. Gardner said she could see why the news of the fees would have alarmed DPAO officials because she notified them about it shortly before concerts tickets went on sale Friday.

After it became such an uproar over the weekend, she arranged the meeting Monday, Mrs. Gardner said. She said she now intends to see if council members will agree to waive the fee.

“I know it wasn’t the best timing,” she said, adding she did not know how much it costs the city to complete the hookups until last week, when she talked with the city’s Electrical Department about it.

There also was some confusion about the fee’s amount. DPAO officials insisted last week the organization was being charged $2,575, or $643 per show. The contract did not list an actual amount, Mr. Rich said.

But the amount should be about $640 for the year for the hookups, Mrs. Gardner said Tuesday. Tabulated based on the cost of labor and materials, the projected cost could change depending on whether the DPAO has one or two trailers for the concert season, she said.

The organization still has to sign a contract with the city before its first show May 25.

The supposed $2,575 fee and other escalating charges upset DPAO officials so much last week that they were thinking about looking at other venues and moving the concerts from the fairgrounds.

In recent years, DPAO has expressed concerns about rising fees for food concessions, vehicle parking, space for keeping the trailers on site and other items.

But the discussion soothed their views of the situation, Mr. Rich said. As a result, the organization has no plans to go elsewhere, he said, adding he understands Mrs. Gardner’s perspective and “is optimistic” about the relationship with the city.

To cut down on costs, the DPAO already had decided to present only indoor concerts; outdoor shows at the fairgrounds cost more. To avoid a $250 or $1,000 fee, the DPAO also will not sell concessions at the concerts, Mr. Rich said.

The city charges $250 for organizations that sell concessions and $1,000 if the city’s concession stand is closed for the event.

The summer concert season consists of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild animal show May 25; country star Rodney Atkins on June 23; country legend George Jones’s farewell tour on Aug. 3 and KC and the Sunshine Band/the Village People on Aug. 9.

Many of the new and increased fees came as a result of a series of policy and procedural changes the City Council implemented after it learned two years ago about financial turmoil the Parks Department went through.

The council subsequently brought in a new management team to run the Parks Department.

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