Kent City Council decided Wednesday it didn't need a special council meeting to decide whether KentFest or the Kent Heritage Festival should be held in downtown Kent during the July 4 weekend.
Instead, council voted 5-3 against debating the matter in committee and later voted to grant festival funding to the Kent United Services Organization, which has sponsored the Heritage Festival in downtown Kent the past two years. Only council members Dan Kamburoff, Jerry Fiala and Ed Pease voted to debate the issue in committee.
Council voted 7-1 to grant the $5,500 council had earmarked last week for "a festival" for the Heritage Festival. Pease cast the dissenting vote.
The issue of who would get the festival was put to rest during the public comments portion of the meeting, when KUSO President Tom Montoni asked council to allow the Heritage Festival to go forward on July 4 and give it the money council had previously allocated for festival funding. Fiala made a motion to put the matter in committee.
"I don't think we need to put this in committee," said Councilman Wayne Wilson. "We've discussed this for the past two years, and the festival went to KUSO. Does somebody feel we didn't have a good festival last year?"
Last week, council voted to grant $5,500 for a festival on the holiday weekend, but refused to decide who would get the funding pending another meeting by council's health and safety committee. Last year, council held a similar meeting and voted to give the festival to KUSO. KentFest held its festival at Wal-Mart.
After the Feb. 11 meeting, KentFest Chairwoman Mary Drongowski wrote a letter to council asking that the funding be applied to KentFest.
In the letter, Drongowski also agreed to host fireworks if permitted and stated that although KentFest is a non-profit group and could not join KUSO, members of KUSO were welcome to join the KentFest committee and "give the citizens of Kent two days of enjoyment."
Drongowski did not attend Wednesday's meeting.
Pease and Fiala said although they would have probably voted in favor of KUSO in the end, they felt council at least owed Drongowski the right to be heard.
"I think we've still got the red, white and blue hanging up there, not a sickle," Fiala said.
But Councilman William Schultz said council had asked KentFest to comply with requests by council for an audit, more community representation in its committee and regularly posted open meetings.
"All these issues were discussed for two and a half hours last year," he said. "It was unnecessary . . . Every year we spend two hours tearing the community apart and not moving forward."
Pease said Heritage Festival organizers had also never submitted an audit, and had not been asked for one.
"We set different policies for different festivals, and then we wonder what's wrong," he said.
Last year, instead of asking for an audit showing how city dollars were spent, Heritage Festival organizers were asked to submit vouchers to Law Director James Silver, who then authorized payment.
Wilson said because council established a different method for accounting for its money last year, the audit may now not be necessary.
"If KentFest will comply with what we asked for next year, I will be tickled pink," he said.
Resident Ed Bargerstock, an insurance agent who last week criticized insurance coverage for last year's Heritage Festival because it covered only spectators, not event participants, said council was wrong to silence debate on the festival issue.
"Neither committee followed your rules or guidelines, yet we're shutting one committee out without any public discussion," he said after council took its vote.
Montoni had said previously KUSO would be willing to use Bargerstock's expertise to help obtain proper insurance this year.
"Our organization is not perfect," he said. "No organization is."