New task force to look at summer festivals

stillwaterThe Stillwater City Council will create a new special events task force to get more community input on the type of events residents want to see in the city.

The council discussed at length Tuesday three options: lifting the city’s special events moratorium and have events on a first-come, first-served basis, create a committee to form policy recommendations based on a Readex Research event survey, or continue the status quo on events but organize a group with members experienced in community-event organizing.

The council decided to create the special events task force that would include more community feedback. The tough part for the council was defining what the committee must do and who would be on the panel.

“What we need to figure out is what’s the goal of the community events, do we want to build a sense of the community, build an economic benefit for the city,” said Councilman Tom Weidner. “As a council, what is the goal and how do we do it.”

The importance of setting a policy and event staying power dominated much of the conversation. Also discussed were future changes coming with the new bridge and construction on the riverfront this summer and changes occurring downtown.

“What I don’t want to happen is for this to go on and on. We’re entering a point where big changes are happening, and downtown  will look different when the bridge is done. I’m worried about traffic on (Minnesota) 36 coming through downtown and the bridge schedule along with traffic problems in downtown Stillwater. We have to make downtown as accessible and inviting as humanly possible.” said Councilman Ted Kozlowski.

Councilmembers believe compelling events that appeal to Stillwater and the surrounding areas could bring people downtown. Although it’s likely no events will occur downtown this summer due the scheduled Army Corps of Engineer levee project along Lowell Park, 2014 is the likely goal for a major summer festival.

“The end result is to put 2014 into play and if we create this committee it has to get its work done.” said Councilman Doug Menikheim. “Let’s do this right.”

City staff suggested that timelines and specific goals from the council could help the new committee know what they were aiming for in an acceptable time frame. Staff encouraged the council to send them three to five tasks they want the committee to accomplish and the results would be presented to council at its next meeting.