Alpharetta halts some public events

Moratorium to determine costs, benefits to downtown

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – This has been a busy year for downtown Alpharetta. Nearly every weekend, there have been events, parties, races and all manner of merriment to keep residents both happy and downtown. In total, there were about 120 events.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of events is causing so much trouble for the city that it decided to stop accepting new ones for the next three months.

Deputy City Administrator James Drinkard told the City Council Dec. 16 that the costs of hosting these events and the benefits are unknown to the city.

“What we are talking about smaller events,” Drinkard said. “We cannot tell if they are having positive impact on the community other than being a fundraiser for an organization.”

That is not to say they are not worth having, but the city has to pay employees overtime to work each of these events – everything from police escorts to barricades and closure of streets must be organized. Not only are the costs adding up, so is the overtime and worker fatigue.

Drinkard and Special Events Coordinator Kim Dodson suggested taking a three-month break of the smaller events to take stock of how much each event costs the city.

Drinkard was quick to point out this moratorium only applies to events that are not city-hosted or sponsored. The Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre and the events sponsored by the Convention and Visitors Bureau would not be affected, neither are parks events, since no police or public works staff are involved.

Drinkard said that the city’s price tag for events in 2013 ran almost $1 million.

“The number of events has grown exponentially,” Drinkard said. “What worries us is what we see coming down the pipe. Communities around us are driving up barriers.”

Surrounding communities have severely restricted where some events can be held, what times and dates they can be held, and they are hiking up fees. Alpharetta has done none of this and Drinkard said nonprofits and community groups have taken note.

“We are increasingly becoming the low cost location for events. That’s not necessarily a good thing,” he said. “If we are putting out resources and absorbing costs, that is taking away from other things we could do.”

The City Council agreed.

“Unless we are putting people in beds or people [downtown], I’m not sure I want to pay for it,” said Councilmember D.C. Aiken. “If somebody wants to make an event request and pay the freight, that’s permissible.”

Councilmember Mike Kennedy agreed.

“Every neighborhood and every charity would love to have an event and close the streets and have cops come out,” he said. “The choices are simple – you either staff and pay for it or don’t do it. We have only so many days and so many people.”

The 90-day moratorium will encompass the first quarter of 2014.