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Williamsport hopes rock music can help pay for its watershed costs

July 25, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The town of Williamsport will have a rock concert fundraiser at River Bottom Park this fall. From left, are: Rik Parks, the entertainment coordinator, Bill Green, Williamsport Town Councilman and Alex Reed, Washington County Watershed Specialist. The concert, called Rockin' at River Bottom, will be Sept. 15. Five bands are lined up to play.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Faced with a large price tag on a government mandate, the town of Williamsport is trying to raise money through an all-day rock concert.

Counties and municipalities across the state are trying to figure out how to pay for a new state Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to help protect the Chesapeake Bay by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges.

The plan is expected to cost Washington County and its municipalities $1.1 billion in the next 13 years in stormwater, wastewater and septic measures.

Williamsport’s share is an estimated $11.7 million.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Donnie Stotelmyer said he and Councilman Bill G. Green talked about the possibility of having a concert at River Bottom Park in Williamsport. The idea evolved into a fundraiser for WIP costs, with an educational component about the health of the Potomac River, Stotelmyer said.

The concert, called Rockin’ at River Bottom, will be Sept. 15. Five bands are lined up to play.

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Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Stotelmyer said 6,000 tickets will be available.

If all goes well, Green said, the town could take in $60,000 to $70,000.

The concert has the attention of some state officials, who saluted the town for its drive.

“I think it’s wonderful that local governments are creative,” said Izzy Patoka, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. “These are really tough times.”

Patoka said the concert could be both a tourism draw and an event to teach water quality.

“This is Williamsport taking the lead to raise awareness,” said Samantha Kappalman, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, which has helped promote the concert through social media.

Kappalman and Jay Apperson, another MDE spokesman, both said they understood the rock concert to be an awareness event and not necessarily to raise money for the town’s WIP costs.

Kappalman said the town explained it in an email as an event “to raise money for community education and outreach and possibly some demonstration projects.”

But Stotelmyer said the concert is to help pay for the WIP for Williamsport and any other local government body that wants to participate.

He said a few other towns and Washington County appear to be interested so far.

The co-headliner bands for Rockin’ at River Bottom are Rhino Bucket and Charm City Devils.

Three local bands — So Low, Calisus and Crush Theory — also are scheduled to play.

During a recent Williamsport Town Council meeting, Green said the state might match money that the town raises.

Kappalman said the town appears to be referring to a future Bay Restoration Fund matching grant program for good stormwater practices.

Besides having food vendors and educational booths, the town hopes to get a permit to sell beer at the event, but, as of Wednesday, hadn’t applied for one.

At the same council meeting, resident Walter Williams objected to the possibility of beer at the concert. He said alcohol could lead to problems.

“There’s other ways to make money,” he said.

But Green said police officers will be at the event and will keep order.

Williams challenged the mayor and council, saying there was never a vote on allowing alcohol at the event.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II called a special meeting for Monday at 6:45 p.m. to discuss the latest plans for the concert.

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