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Another parking fee for fireworks

by Alecia Warren
| June 30, 2010 9:00 PM

There's no such thing as a free parking spot.

The Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday to allow the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce to charge for parking in a county lot on the Fourth of July.

Proceeds will help fund the city's annual fireworks display.

"I think this is the least we could do to help this cause," said Commissioner Rick Currie. "Fireworks have been a staple of this community. If everyone who watched the show would drop a dollar in a bucket somewhere, we'd be in great shape. But it doesn't work that way."

Under the memorandum of agreement, the chamber can charge $10 for daylong parking on the 175 spaces north of the county Administration Building on the Fourth of July.

The county will not be compensated.

"We're not gaining, but we're not losing either," Currie said after the vote.

The extra funding is necessary for the fireworks show that otherwise was suffering from lack of donations, said Chamber President and CEO Todd Christensen.

"This is a $30,000 to $35,000 show," Christensen said to the commissioners before they voted in the administration building. "We want to continue honoring heroes of our past as well as our present."

The fee is a good way to charge city visitors who enjoy the event but otherwise don't contribute financially to the area, said Commissioner Todd Tondee.

"This is a way to support the fireworks," he said.

But Commissioner Rich Piazza, who voted against the measure, worried where it could lead next.

"It's a good thing for the city and for fireworks, but it opens a door, and I'm not sure that's a door I want opened," he said.

The fee sets a precedent to do the same during any of the myriad downtown events, he said.

"There's Ironman, there's Susan G. Komen (Race for the Cure), there are various things always going on downtown," Piazza said.

Christensen said after the vote he doubted that would happen.

"Our intent is to look at only the Fourth of July, where it has a large demand on parking," he said.

The chamber has also made arrangements with the city of Coeur d'Alene to charge for parking in five city lots downtown on the holiday.

The success of the fees will be reviewed after one year, Christensen said.

"Our anticipation is it (the fee) will be accepted and understood," he said. "The audience that comes into the Coeur d'Alene area are not unaccustomed to paying $15, $20 and $25 for event parking."

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