Sunday, January 24, 2021

Fourth of July parking revenue to go to public safety

Staff Writer | June 18, 2020 1:11 AM

Coeur d’Alene’s one-time hiatus from the public fireworks show this year left its funding temporarily aimless. The Coeur d’Alene City Council gave it new direction Tuesday night when it voted to dedicate those funds back to public safety.

The city’s agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce gives the chamber the rights to charge event parking for the Fourth of July event, the revenue from which goes to fund the fireworks show. But when Chamber CEO Derrell Hartwick announced on May 28 the fireworks display was canceled out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic, that ongoing agreement became — temporarily, at least — moot.

With the parade and park festivities still going forward, public safety personnel like police and fire departments will still be moving forward and providing services for the public downtown. With many officers often going into overtime to help out, Councilman Dan Gookin asked for a discussion about funneling the parking revenue for that day back to first responders.

“My thought was,” Gookin told The Press, “can we take the money that day and apply it back to the departments that need it? In light of the fact there’s no fireworks this year, and we’re not charging the event for parking, this seems like a reasonable way to help offset those costs.”

Typically, per the lease agreement, the chamber charges $20 per stall for event parking and reimburses the city $7 per stall, per the city’s fee schedule. The chamber then pays for the yearly fireworks display, which — combined with the parade and festival — makes for the biggest single-day gathering of the year.

As a bonus to this year’s crowd, because the city has a set fee schedule that dictates $7 per stall, and because the Fourth is now two weeks away — the time needed for the city to post a legal advertisement to consider upping the fee — drivers will not pay the usual $20 fee to park, but rather the $7 the city is allowed to charge.

Moreso, council members said, the unusual circumstances of the past few months should make protecting their pocketbooks a particular priority this year.

“I feel like I’m in a role-reversal,” Councilman Dan English said, “because I think the $7 makes a lot of sense for folks, rather than trying to go for $20. This is a tough time, and I think this will be a good event.”

Gookin agreed.

“I agree with Dan,” he said. “I think $20 would be wonderful and would help with (police chief Lee White’s) budget, but in light of the economy and everything, $7 seems to be reasonable.”

Last year’s parking revenue for the Fourth event generated $27,075. The city received $9,374, leaving the chamber just shy of $15,000 after collection expenses. While this year’s revenue might not meet those marks, considering the fireworks show was canceled, council members expressed optimism the revenue would help offset the police and fire departments’ battles against overtime budgets.

“And just to I guess keep everything in perspective,” English added, “this is … for this year, one time, and we do need to look at things going forward. And hopefully by this time next year, we’ve got the fireworks, we’ve got the regular Fourth of July, and we’ll look back on this as an anomaly.”