Planning public event on town property? You’ll need a permit, Society Hill says

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

A plan to regulate public events held on town property won initial approval last week from Society Hill Town Council.

Council voted 3-0, with two members absent, to give first-reading approval to an ordinance requiring individuals or groups to fill out an application and provide liability insurance before the town can issue them a permit for a public event on property owned by the town.

“The town government is not here to be an entertainment production company,” Mayor Tommy Bradshaw said before the vote at council’s regular July 9 meeting. “ … We have to look out for the town’s best interests. … We’ve got to cover ourselves. … Really, this (ordinance) is past due. It’s overdue.”

Bradshaw’s determination to create a permitting process for festivals and similar events on town property was spurred by an event held over the Memorial Day weekend.

A community group put on a small festival in the parking lot outside the Town Hall building, and the county fire department sent over a fire truck to help entertain the children who attended. Firefighters helped kids shoot water from fire hoses into the air. But the group holding the festival had no liability insurance for the event and no one connected with the town’s government knew about it in advance.

Bradshaw said that festival put the town of 560 people at major risk legally. If a child had somehow gotten hurt, the town might have been sued. “One major incident could bankrupt the town,” Bradshaw told council last week.

The ordinance endorsed by Town Council last week needs one more vote to become final, and that is expected at council’s next meeting.

The ordinance notes that special events held on town property “contribute to the community spirit, quality of life and local economy,” but “they also create often-overlooked liability exposures for the Town of Society Hill.”

The town has produced a five-page application form that must be filled out before a permit for an event on town property can be considered. “The application is quite lengthy,” Bradshaw said, “but it has to be lengthy to address what it has to address.”

Here’s a summary of the major points in the application:

— A $25 fee is required, unless the group can show it has qualified as a nonprofit under federal law.

— The application must be filed 30 business days before the event.

— Organizers must show proof they have taken out $1 million worth of liability insurance. (The application directs organizers to a company that offers “low-cost” insurance for these kinds of events.)

— A list of vendors is required, and each vendor must pay a $25 permit fee.

— If alcohol is served, the group must obtain a temporary alcohol license and a liquor-liability insurance policy.

— If the town must provide security for the event, crowd control or traffic control requiring police assistance, there will be a $25 fee charged per officer, per hour.

— If the town must provide water and power for the event, the water fee is $5 per hour; the power fee is $10 per hour.

Author: Rachel Howell

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