The Lander City Council decided not to take action this week on a resolution setting city fees for rodeo and park facility rentals.
The city had modified the fee schedule last year, asking community groups hosting ticketed events at rodeo and park facilities to pay 10 percent of ticket revenues collected at the gate.
This year, city staff recommended capping that fee at $4,000.
The council directed staff to lower the cap to $2,000 earlier this month, and that was the rate reflected in the fee schedule resolution that was considered during a regular meeting Tuesday.
Lander Old Timer’s Rodeo Association president Paula McCormick expressed appreciation for the proposed “compromise” cap of $2,000 during this week’s meeting, but she also indicated that LOTRA would “see if that is the best deal that we can get.”
“I have handed out rodeo sponsorship letters and brochures to each of you,” she told the council. “We will need help finding the $2,000 … to pay for the fees in added sponsorships – plus we’ll need to have $2,300 to rent a sound system and $1,200 for more port-a-potties. So any help that you can give us, we would appreciate.”
She noted that community events put on by local volunteers “generate significant sales tax” income for Lander, suggesting that “the city should be focusing on removing barriers for supporting nonprofit organizations who put on these events – not creating barriers.”
At least one organization has decided “they would not come back to the (rodeo) arena” to host an event “because of the philosophy you have,” LOTRA treasurer Julie Freese said, asking the city to consider implementing a flat fee for facility rentals instead of a percentage of tickets at the gate.
Councilmember Julia Stuble proposed changing the fee for ticketed events at rodeo and park facilities to a flat rate, initially suggesting $1,000 per day, and Councilmember Melinda Cox supported the idea, arguing that it might generate more use.
“The economic revenue that we can make hosting more events (is) more profitable for our community long-term,” Cox said.
Councilmember Missy White said she appreciated that “perspective,” but she also pointed out that “the cost to run these different facilities still exists.”
“We need the folks using the (facilities) to contribute at least to some degree … so that we can continue keeping these facilities and upkeeping these facilities so they continue to be good places to host these events,” White said. “It’s a small offset that we’re trying to do with our limited dollars … to continue to provide these facilities.”
Public works director Lance Hopkin agreed that the proposed fees would only cover a “small” portion of the money required to maintain rodeo and park facilities year-round while also planning for future upkeep and eventual replacements.
“(It’s) an asset management question,” he said. “Are we going to replace all of this infrastructure we built as-is … or are we going to start paring down to what we can afford (with) how little general fund budget is actually available?”
Councilmember John Larsen wondered whether some sales tax revenues could be earmarked for rodeo and park facility maintenance, and Councilmember Josh Hahn suggested the city should start charging fees for camping in local parks to help cover costs.
Hahn also asked why the city decided to acquire new park land recently – near City Park and north of Poor Farm Road – instead “taking care of the (assets) that we have.”
“I think our problem is unnecessary spending,” he said. “We’re buying properties that are just going to sit there until we have money to do something. … It just doesn’t seem fair. (It) seems like we’ve got a big spending issue, and not enough money coming in.”
City treasurer Charri Lara said it might be helpful for the city to start tracking how much it costs to facilitate each community event that takes place at a local rodeo arena or park facility.
“We are negligent in keeping track of (that) exact amount,” she said. “We don’t have that number. … We truly don’t know those costs.”
Councilmember Dan Hahn said it would be “a lot easier” to make a decision about the fee schedule if the council had that information.
“It would be nice to know,” he said. “I don’t feel we have the information we really need.”
The council voted to table the fee resolution decision so they could discuss the issue further during a future work session.
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.