OCEAN SPRINGS -- Festivals and events were a hot topic at the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night, from dessert crawls to Mayfest.
"We're a festival city," Mayor Connie Moran said.
It's the city's bread and butter, but it was the cost to the city and how the city might recoup some of that cost that was the focus of discussion.
Aldermen decided to formulate a policy on how to charge event organizers to recoup some costs when city departments provide support for events.
Moran suggested nonprofit fundraisers not be charged, but aldermen couldn't decide who that would be and what the criteria might be.
So they voted to turn it over to the city attorney to handle such details. And they asked the Finance Committee to come back within a month with ideas on what the actual cost to the city is and how the city might make some of it back.
One concern was placing charges or limits on events might cost the city in the long run, because so many of downtown businesses rely heavily on special events.
Although Alderman Matt McDonnell expressed concern that paying for festival prep might be "spending tax dollars to support private business," Moran warned there is competition for festivals from cities such as Gulfport.
"We have to really beef up our brand," she said. She said it could be more an issue of keeping the sales tax the city has than attracting more.
The City Clerk's Office said the city spent $53,000 last year in overtime for events large and small. That included police, fire and public works hours.
But Public Works Director Andre Kaufman said there's more to preparation, cleanup and support than just overtime. He estimated the cost to public works alone was $50,000 to $60,000 last year, noting Saturday's Mardi Gras parade cost his department $8,000 to $9,000. And he estimated the city has 30 festivals by nonprofits a year.
Finding a way to pay
"I agree, it's a festival city and we don't want to shut anything down," Alderman Chic Cody said, "but we've got to figure out a way to pay for it."
Aldermen also unanimously voted to appoint retired businessman Wally Carter to a 10-month opening on the Ocean Springs School Board. The short term was created when one position on the school board shifted from inside the city to outside.
Carter lives in the city and will hold the position until the end of 2014, when a new board member from outside the city takes over.
The makeup of the school board shifted because almost half of the students in the school district now live outside the city. A second voting district has been created. The new member will be elected from the St. Andrews district in a special election Nov. 4. The other voting district is primarily Gulf Park Estates.
Carter said he offered to take the short term in hopes his business background might help the school system find new ways of generating revenue. He called it the most important board in the city.
In other business, the city clerk's office was acknowledged for working with Sen. Thad Cochran to have $2.8 million in Katrina community disaster loans to the city forgiven.