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Committee calls off Canal Days

Williamsport mayor: Town will hold similar event if decision stands

Williamsport mayor: Town will hold similar event if decision stands

March 15, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT

Upset about paying fees to the town, the committee that runs C&O Canal Days has announced it will not hold the event this year.

"An increase in expenses and regulations for the park placed on us by the newly elected Williamsport Town Mayor and Council has sealed our decision for this year," the committee wrote in a letter to The Herald-Mail. It pledged "a new and improved event in the future."

"You talk about a blow to the nonprofits," Mayor James G. McCleaf II said Tuesday when told by a reporter, referring to groups that rely heavily on the event as a fundraiser.

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McCleaf said the town will step in and hold a similar event, with a different name, if the committee doesn't change its mind.

"And that's a guarantee," he said. "I will not let the citizens down."

Last August, three weeks before C&O Canal Days, the town council decided, for the first time, to charge the committee for labor, water and electricity it previously had gotten for free.

Elissa Slayman, the committee's chairwoman, walked out in protest. The council then voted to charge the committee half of its proceeds from the event, up to $1,250 - which is what the committee paid.

The council decided in December to waive the fees for using Byron Memorial Park and its amenities this year.

Instead, the council imposed a $20 fee for each vendor, except nonprofit groups.

At the time, Councilwoman Gloria J. Bitner, a former committee member, said the committee charges vendors $70 apiece to set up at the festival.

Committee member Lonnie Jenkins said Tuesday that suspending the festival was the right choice.

"The fees are just going to kill us," he said.

"We understand that our event was not to be excluded from fees but the increased fees that were placed on the committee without two-way communication would cause us to pass the expenses on to our crafters/vendors," the committee's letter says. "We as a committee of a community event could not come to grips with taking these drastic steps."

The nonprofit committee has used event proceeds to buy banners for the town, benches for Byron Memorial Park, a photo imaging camera for Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. and a respirator for Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service, among other things, according to the committee.

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