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Council approves 'Extravaganza'

FirefightersâEUR(TM) fund-raiser in park may require city to spend $100,000

FirefightersâEUR(TM) fund-raiser in park may require city to spend $100,000

September 29, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to allow the city's firefighters to hold a fund-raiser next year involving gambling, alcohol sales and firearms giveaways, but city officials continued to have questions about the event.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1605 has proposed holding "Bonanza Extravaganza," Sept. 16-18, 2005, at Fairgrounds Park. Organizers said they expect as many as 10,000 attendees, who each would pay a $100 entrance fee.

Those attending the fund-raiser would be entered into a raffle with prizes such as rifles, shotguns, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, trip packages and cash.

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Those attending who are of legal age would be allowed to gamble and consume alcohol.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said he believed organizers could face problems when they hold the event.

"Have you managed a million dollar (event)?" Hendershot asked Rick Conrad, a city firefighter and the event's lead organizer.

Conrad said he had not.

"I have. I wouldn't touch (this event) with a 10-foot pole," Hendershot said.

Against the wishes of Hendershot and Mayor William M. Breichner, the council gave its approval for the event to be held at the park.

With that approval, the council agreed to later work out details of how to pay for at least $128,000 in costs associated with the event.

The city has estimated that city services needed to hold the event - such as public works employees and police officers - would cost about $28,000.

Cost estimates presented by city officials Tuesday showed that the city would need to spend at least $100,000 in upgrades to a park building to increase its capacity to suit the firefighters' needs for the event. That cost, however, could reach more than $130,000.

Conrad said the firefighters would be willing to cover some costs identified by the city, but he hoped to limit them to $28,000.

The remainder - which likely would be the cost to upgrade the park - has to be borrowed, City Finance Director Alfred Martin said. He estimated that if the city borrowed $100,000, it would need roughly $10,000 a year to repay the amount at current interest rates.

Once the council voiced its support for the project, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said city officials would draw up a contract between the city and the firefighters that would settle the event costs as well as concerns about how one of the park's soccer fields would be fixed if it were damaged.

The event is planned for the middle of the soccer season, which could affect league play, Zimmerman said.

"The field is not designed for this kind of event," Zimmerman said, but "we'll work through it."

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