City Council considers in-kind funding agreement for Tall Ships

The City Council is considering an agreement with the Tacoma Events Commission that would allow the city to provide $150,000...

The City Council is considering an agreement with the Tacoma Events Commission that would allow the city to provide $150,000 of in-kind funding for facilities and services during the Tall Ships Festival this summer, according to a discussion at the City Council Study Session yesterday.

Two draft agreements were presented yesterday: one provides a flat support of $150,00; the other provides the support through in-kind (or “matching”) funding. The city is hoping that the economic benefits of supporting the festival will outweigh the cost of providing support in facilities and services.

“This event will let us actively and creatively tell the Tacoma story,” said Josie Turner, Community Initiatives Division Manager in the Tacoma Economic Development Department (TEDD). Turner pointed to the media attention such an event would generate for Tacoma. She indicated that TEDD would plan press tours and events to “provide a picture of our city, pitch different story angles, and invite members of the media to come back to Tacoma.”

According to both versions of the draft agreements, the event would promote tourism in Tacoma and provide economic benefits to the city. The agreements indicate that “the Tall Ships 2005 event will support and enhance the city’s investments and efforts by attracting up to 400,000 visitors to Tacoma over a five day period, with approximately half the attendees expected to come from outside Pierce County.”

The Tacoma Events Commission predicts that the festival will result in a significant number of overnight stays in local hotels, as well as “local retail businesses enjoying daily sales three to four times greater than average,” according to the draft agreements.

City Councilwoman Julie Anderson supported the in-kind version of the agreement, specifically as it related to future events in Tacoma. “It sets a precedent for how we deal with new entities entering the market,” she said. “The one-to-one match signals the seriousness of a new event promoter or unknown entity.”

Mayor Bill Baarsma agreed. “This match says that we want to see the financial viability of event promoters,” he said.

Still, support for an agreement was countered by concerns related to emergency services and budget constraints.

“This event will have a significant impact on the Tacoma Police Department,” said Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell, who told the council that the department’s main objective was to create a safe and secure event for visitors. However, Chief Ramsdell warned that traffic congestion and a spike in crimes would put tremendous stress on the resources of police officers.

Tacoma Police Sergeant and Special Events Coordinator Rob Jepson told the council that 155 officers would work 2,100 hours between two major events: the Tall Ships Festival (June 30 through July 5) and the Freedom Fair (July 4). “Everybody will be pulled to work a shift,” he said.

Councilman Rick Talbert commented, “Between Freedom Fair and Tall Ships, our public safety services are stretched to the max.”

According to Chief Ramsdell, the events would cost taxpayers approximately $400,000 in services from Tacoma Police and Tacoma Fire Departments.

“We like special events,” said Councilman Mike Lonergan, “but we’re also stretching this budget.”

The city’s plan to contribute $150,000 in facilities and services — whether it’s in-kind or a flat contribution — must be adopted as a resolution at a future City Council meeting.

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