County to charge nonprofits for concessions use

Lack of details leaves room for confusion

by Blake Jones – The Garden Island

A bill intended to recoup county expenses when private groups use public facilities has many nonprofits questioning how it will impact their fund-raisers.

Bill 2212, which took effect May 11 without the mayor’s signature, focuses primarily on peddler and concessionaire use of public vendor spaces such as the nine booths at Spouting Horn Park in Kuku‘iula.

Raising concerns, however, are two sentences in the middle of the 14-page document, which address nonprofits in particular.

According to Section 23-3.5, nonprofits using concession spaces will pay a $100 fee for events, attractions or activities as well as 10 percent of all net profits earned — this on top of permitting fees.

The bill defines concession stands as county structures used by private parties for a fee to conduct “operations essentially retail in nature involving the sale of goods, wares, novelties or any merchandise for sale to consumers.”

According to Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, the section is intended to recover some of the costs related to hosting nonprofit events at county venues.

“The city cannot be in the business of subsidizing events,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

She noted that the county absorbs a great deal of event expenses, as permitting fees go into the general fund. Fees collected in association with the measure, however, would be earmarked for facility staffing, maintenance and utilities.

Parks and Recreation officials did not return calls by press time about whether similar fees exist for private businesses that use county concessions.

According to Councilman Jay Furfaro, the intent of the bill was compromised, and it will have to be clarified.

“This bill in particular will need to be amended,” he said.

Iseri-Carvalho said the specifics “became too discretionary” to include in the bill itself but agreed that they need to be worked out to make it “fair and equitable” for all nonprofits.

This process will likely take place administratively through the Parks and Recreation Department, she said. A public hearing on the issue will be required, and input will be sought from the nonprofit community.

Mary Williamson, executive director of the American Cancer Society’s Kaua‘i field office, said the language as it currently reads leaves a lot of room for questions.

“I don’t want to cry wolf, but I don’t want this to fly past us,” Williamson said.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life fund-raiser, held May 5 at the county’s Hanapepe Stadium, netted at least $160,000, according to her preliminary estimates. Many donations came in before or after the actual relay, and it is unclear whether they would be subject to the 10 percent fee.

Liana Soong, development and community liaison for Kaua‘i Hospice , shared similar concerns about the breakdown of the charges. Hospice hosts an annual fund-raiser at Vidinha Stadium, and Soong said she worries that $4,000 of the $40,000 profits would go to the county, not the hospice’s patients, if the entire stay were considered a “concession.”

“That’s equal to one dying patient’s medical care for a year,” she said, adding that nonprofit supporters should not have to foot the bill for upkeep of county facilities.

Williamson and Soong have been in contact with council members on the issue and agree that there is not enough information available for the nonprofit community to grasp how the measure will affect their events.

Unchanged is the fact that county facilities are important resources for nonprofits, as they provide public spaces large enough to accommodate events as well as the necessary infrastructure, including parking, bathrooms and bleachers.

“All these events build the community and we should be looking at fostering that, not hampering it in any way,” Williamson said.

The agenda for Thursday’s council meeting, which begins at 9 a.m., includes, under unfinished business, a motion to reconsider the bill’s April 25 approval. The council meets at the historic County Building, 4396 Rice St., in room 201.

This week’s County Council meeting has been scheduled over two days — Wednesday and Thursday — to accommodate the funeral for Bunji Shimomura at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

• Blake Jones, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com.

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