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Plainfield considers charges for special events in downtown

Brock A. Stein | 4/12/2016, 1:57 p.m.
The popularity of Plainfield's downtown to host events has meant an increased cost for the village and a strain on ...
Downtown Lockport Street is closed for Plainfield Fest, a three-day extravaganza of food, carnival rides, competitive games and live music.

The number of special events held in downtown Plainfield has doubled since 2012. The village held only 12 special events that year, a number that grew to 34 in 2015.

The popularity of the village host events such as Plainfield Fest, cruise nights, and a growing number of 5k races has also meant an increase in costs to staff the events with added police officers, public works employees, and emergency management volunteers.

The total dollar figure to the village in 2015 was just over $96,000 according to a report reviewed this week by Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek. About $49,000 of that cost went toward police officer labor, $21,000 for public works staffing, and though they work as volunteers, he estimates the cost of the labor donated by PEMA volunteers at $23,000.

Konopek told the village board that while some events are billed for the added staffing, the village only bills on average about 10% of the costs for the special events.

Because the village uses volunteers who are part of its emergency management organization, Konopek said that "The number of events we have really does put a strain on emergency personnel" to the point that he said that he’s begun to see signs of “burnout” in volunteers by the end of the summer.

Of the 3,010 staffing hours expended by the village during the 2015 special events season, just over 1200 hours were spent on what Konopek called “the big five” which includes the Hometown Irish Parade, weekly cruise nights, July 4 fireworks in the park, Plainfield Fest, and the homecoming parade.

Konopek recommended to the village board make changes to the way it handles special events to reduce those costs.

For what he calls “smaller local events” he recommends that most pay for “services rendered already” and that event organizers already handle the added duties at no added cost to the village.

Konopek didn’t recommend any change for large community events like parades and Cruise Nights which are supplemented by the downtown TIF (Tax Increment Funding) district. The Patriotic Picnic and fireworks display is already a shared cost between the village, the park district, fire district, and school district he said.

Konopek did note that relocating Plainfield Fest from the downtown to another location could save the village money through reduced staffing needs and would also make the event safer he said noting the packed conditions especially near the midway carnival rides.

“Every year it scares me because of how many people we are shoving in to a very small area,” said Konopek.

Village administrator Brian Murphy said that the village pays about $35,000 to hold the event in the downtown area but estimated that amount would be about $15,000 to $20,000 “if it weren’t in the downtown area.” One location that’s been discussed in the past is to relocate the festival to Plainfield Central High School near Fort Beggs Dr.

The popularity of the downtown to hold 5k races has grown in recent years as well with the village hosting 6 last year.

Konopek proposes that the village charge $2,500 for 5k events and other fundraisers pay the actual cost of manpower under the proposed changes.

The charge would provide $2000 to offset the cost of police and public works presence at the events said the chief with $500 going toward a PEMA equipment account. Administrator Murphy said that the amount was determined by averaging the costs of all the events.