Kent wants to help festival, but which one gets the cash?

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Kent City Council is prepared to give $5,500 to a festival in Kent.

But which festival is an issue that will be addressed at an upcoming meeting of council's health and public safety committee.

The Kent Heritage Festival and KentFest both have applied for a permit to hold a festival downtown the weekend of July 4. The Heritage Festival, sponsored by the Kent United Services Organization, had asked for $6,000, plus in-kind services, like police and fire services and assistance from the city service department with tasks like hanging banners.

Last year, the Heritage Festival was held downtown, while KentFest was held at the Wal-Mart parking lot.

KUSO President Tom Montoni said the festival would be a good investment.

"We feel we've done an incredible job with the festival," he said. "It's increasing in size every year. Council has always supported the festivals. It's even been broken down that it would cost 25 to 50 cents per citizen."

KentFest Chairwoman Mary Drongowski asked council not to spend money on the Heritage Festival because of its "commercial nature."

Resident Ed Bargerstock also said the insurance for last year's festival covered only spectators, not participants in events like the running events, basketball tournaments or skateboarding exhibitions.

"This exposed the city and its member organizations to significant liability," he said.

Councilman Jerry Fiala stressed that the $5,500, an amount equal to the amount given to KUSO for its festival last year, could be given to either KUSO, KentFest or a third organization if it comes forward with a proposal.

"I think a festival is good for the community," he said. "It's a shame these two organizations can't work together."

Before Wednesday's meeting, Drongowski and KentFest Trustee Emily Huff had asked council members who were members of the nine groups which composed KUSO to abstain from voting because of a potential conflict of interest. However, Law Director James Silver said there was no conflict of interest unless the council members receive money from the non-profit groups they belong to.

The date for the meeting where the question of who gets the festival is expected to be set at next week's regular council meeting.

In other business, council's health and safety committee approved changes in its policy on towing illegally parked cars to comply with a federal court ruling.

The policy makes provisions for notifying vehicle owners before their car is towed, sets up an appeals process and ensures owners will be notified before the car is destroyed.

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