Dubuque Co. special events ordinance proposal met with criticism - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque Co. special events ordinance proposal met with criticism

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As the popularity of rides, walks, runs and cruises for charity continues to grow, some county officials are increasingly concerned about safety - and the budget.

Dubuque County supervisors are proposing an ordinance that would require groups wanting to hold an event that would utilize county roads to apply for a permit.

The permit would cost $50, which would cover the sheriff's initial safety-check of the proposed route and then two hours on the roads on the day of the actual event.

Groups would have to pay $50 for every hour beyond that. The ordinance would also allow the county to fine a group $500 if it did not get a permit ahead of an event.

Dubuque County sheriff Don Vrotsos declined to comment on the proposed ordinance but said safety is a major concern when it comes to big events on rural roads.

"We want to make sure that, again, the event organizer and whoever's going to attend that event are safe and secure in what they're doing," Vrotsos said.

"But also, we have to consider the general public, if they're out on the roadway, we want to make sure they're safe, too, because if there's somebody on the roadway, they have to swerve and a car goes in the ditch, you know, that person could be injured or killed. So we want to make sure that everybody is safe when it comes to this event."

Some groups, including the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, oppose the vague wording of the supervisors' special events ordinance proposal and want them to be more specific.

"Some of the issues and some of the concerns have risen as a result of the language in the ordinance," chamber president Molly Grover said. "The subjectivity, compliance/enforcement of the ordinance as it stands, lack of clarity, lack of substantiating information to indicate the need for public policy, the impact on public and private-sector activities, so there was lots of concern at the chamber board table."

She said charging all groups those fees - and possible fines - for a special event permit could hinder not-for-profit groups from organizing fundraising rides, walks and runs. She noted the Dubuque area has more than 500 not-for-profit groups.

Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer said he and his two fellow supervisors are trying to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

"We just said, 'Is this fair to the taxpayers to be funding paying for the sheriff's time for everything? Or should these people, if they're going to be-- especially trying to make money on something as a promoter, at least ask them to pay the county for the costs they have invested in it as well?'"

The ordinance would also require groups to apply for the permit at least six weeks before the planned event.

County supervisors will meet again in less than two weeks with a revised ordinance proposal. That will be subject to public hearing before it can be passed.

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