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Town to charge Canal Days committee a fee

August 12, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT

andrews@herald-mail.com

A compromise ended a heated argument Monday over whether a committee should pay the town $2,500 to hold this year's C&O Canal Days.

Councilman Jeff Cline proposed that amount to cover services - such as about 100 hours of labor, water and electricity - that the town annually provides at no cost.

Committee members protested, saying the new charge - three weeks before the event - was a great burden.

"There's no way we can afford it - not this year," said Elissa Slayman, the committee's chairwoman.

Cline praised C&O Canal Days as an event that "puts Williamsport on the map," but called the charge necessary for a town in financial trouble.

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Cline's motion failed 3-2. Councilman Earle R. Pereschuk Sr. said people have criticized the town's free work for C&O Canal Days. He and Cline voted in favor of the $2,500 charge.

Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones and Councilmen James C. Kalbfleisch and Nelson F. Deal voted against it.

"I don't think it's fair on that short a notice," Kalbfleisch said.

Councilwoman Gloria J. Bitner, a C&O Canal Days committee member, abstained.

As bickering continued, Mayor James G. McCleaf II proposed that the committee give the town half of its proceeds this year, up to $1,250.

If the committee makes no money, it pays nothing.

The council approved McCleaf's proposal 5-0. Bitner abstained again.

Slayman said the town once donated $500 for C&O Canal Days, but the committee gave it back and asked for help with the work instead.

Monday's debate touched on whether the committee gets special treatment, when it should have known about the fee and the event's importance.

Slayman said the committee always donates proceeds to worthwhile causes.

It has helped pay for a Christmas banner and lights, candy for Santa Claus to give out, concrete benches and hanging baskets, playground equipment and a high-tech camera for the fire department, among other donations, she said.

Jones said the event generates goodwill and excitement.

Slayman questioned why a carnival pays $2,000 to use the park for six days, but C&O Canal Days should pay $2,500 for two days, Aug. 27 and 28.

She left in protest before the votes. Before walking out, she said, "There's snakes in the woodpile. You do whatever you have to do. I'm out of here."

Cline blamed Bitner for not letting her committee know about the fee proposal earlier. He said the council previously had discussed it.

But, asked later when the proposal first came up, Cline wasn't sure. He remembered a suggested fee for a group holding a Civil War event, but wasn't sure if and when he suggested the same for C&O Canal Days.

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