City inches closer to resuming festival

Stilwater city officials took a small step Tuesday toward restoring a summer festival more than one year after putting Lumberjack Days on hold.

City staff will begin seeking requests for proposals about having an event similar to Lumberjack Days in Stillwater next year although the city’s event moratorium remains in place.

The decision to seek proposals came during council discussion regarding a possible new city event coordinator position and the job, compensation and description.

The council asked at its June 18 meeting if the event coordinator’s salary could be paid from fees collected from city events. Community Development Director Bill Turnblad reported that the city receives about $1,000 to $3,000 from event applications, compared to the $20,000 to $30,000 needed annually for a half-time event coordinator position.

City staff has not determined a salary source for the event coordinator job.
Councilman Tom Weidner said most events he has seen on the list were smaller in scale and wondered what a coordinator could do with them.

But Councilman Doug Menikheim said the point of the coordinator would be bringing in new ideas, creativity and innovation.

Councilman Mike Polehna, who is Washington County Parks manager, added that he has talked to a person who he said would be willing to share the position with the city.
Many council members expressed concern that the city is racing against the calendar to ensure that any new city event has sufficient planning time for 2014.

“I hear it all the time, why aren’t we having Lumberjack Days,” Polehna said. “You guys are sitting on your hands and if we don’t proactively look at this, we’re right back where we were criticized for not coming up with a plan. And it comes down to money. A lot of businesses are losing a lot of money when we don’t have a summer festival.”

Councilman Ted Kozlowski said he thought it was odd city officials could find money for an event survey, but can’t find $20,000 for an event coordinator position to make the city better.

“Our reserves are running low and we can’t be everything to everybody,” said Mayor Ken Harycki. “For the most part, everybody enjoys Lumberjack Days and wants a festival downtown, but unless we get going on it by August there won’t be enough time. We’ve gotta get going.”

“Once again we’re moving away from the issue,” Menikheim said. “I fear our approach is a cup half-empty approach. We’re talking about all the reasons we have against it. We need to move forward, so let’s start talking about what we can do.”

Council members responded that the addition of a proposal could help an event coordinator with planning a 2014 event.

City Administrator Larry Hansen said as staff moves forward in the budget process, an event coordinator position could be put down as a want and he would see what could be done for the salary. But he added that 2014 levy restrictions for 2014 would have an impact on the issue.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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