The City Council of Webster City failed to approve a fee structure and list of regulations for food and merchandise vendors during the overnight stay by the RAGBRAI riders.
Council members cited the fact that the community and the council itself had not had a chance to see or review the fees and regulations. City Attorney Gary Groves, also present at the meeting Monday night, said he had not had a chance to review the document.
The measure was put forth in the form of a resolution, which City Manager Ed Sadler said would simplify the process and would not require the three readings an ordinance would. A resolution also wouldn't need to be rescinded the ordinance when RAGBRAI was over. Groves said he was concerned with one section of the resolution which involved enforcement of violations to the proposed regulations. The section puts infractions of the regulations and permits under the nuisance ordinance. He suggested that section be re-examined to make sure enforcement was possible.
The fee structure was divided into several categories. Commercial vendors - businesses, for-profit groups, clubs or organizations - who wish to sell food or merchandise at a location in the community other than their regularly established place of business, would be required to purchase a commercial vendor booth permit at a cost of $500. Nonprofit vendors who wish to sell food or merchandise would be charged $375 for a nonprofit permit.
Any person, organization, business or corporation who currently has a business who wishes to expand their business to the public on July 24 or July 25 at a location other than their place of business will be required to purchase an expanded business permit at a cost of $425. Both commercial and nonprofit food vendors will be required to comply with Iowa Department of Health and Hamilton County Department of Health rules and regulations, including getting the appropriate permits for the sale and dispensing of food for consumption on the premises.
"We looked at what we could do to help the RAGBRAI budget as well as help the businesses and community members in Webster City," said Carrie Fitzgerald, Chamber of Commerce director and head of the food and vendors committee. She said her committee is composed of a variety of area business owners as well as representatives of the grocery stores and community members.
"They gave a recommendation as to what they thought the permit fees should be and gave those recommendations to the executive committee," she said. "Ultimately, the executive committee made the decision on those fees."
Fitzgerald gave a more in depth explanation of the commercial versus expanded business permits.
"Commercial business is basically anybody looking to become a business or looking to sell something that day. People from out of town would be in that category or anybody who doesn't already have a business would be in that category," she said.
The expanded business is the idea that a business may wish to have a food or merchandise booth at a different location.
"They already have a business, it's just expanding what they have into another area," she said.
Council members Linda Conaway, Jerry Kloberdanz and Geary Myer voted against the resolution, and Mayor Janet Adams and Councilman Doug Getter voted in favor of the motion. Myer paused before casting his vote, saying he had originally planned to vote in favor of the resolution, but during the meeting changed his mind.
The council will likely meet Monday to take up the matter as an ordinance and allow the public time to review the fees. Since the resolution failed, the council did not vote on the RAGBRAI budget at Monday's meeting.
Local businessman Larry Ross, owner of the Seneca Street Saloon and Pizza, told the council he was looking for answers and hadn't found any. Ross said he hoped to use part of the public area in front of his business to serve food. He said he had only learned about the resolution today.
"Is there a reason why there is only going to be one beverage garden?" he asked the council.
"It's a safety issue, it's also an issue to be able to control and manage everything we have to do. Also the entertainment and the beverage garden are to be centrally located so it's all in the same area," said Adams.
Ross said he had contacted the chief of police for the town of Madrid who privately provides security teams for RAGBRAI.
"If I can meet the requirements of the safety issues, why wouldn't a person be able to have a beer garden?" Ross asked.
"We discussed this at length. The beverage garden committee has looked at this for some time. The RAGBRAI people have given us a lot of information on how this works best, how most communities are handling it like so you don't get shut down by the troopers - which often happens," Adams said. "When bars try to accommodate more than they can handle, it ends up getting out of hand and they get shut down. Nobody wants that to happen."
Ross said he looked at RAGBRAI as an opportunity to make some money, but felt the restrictions "handcuffed" what businesses can do.
"That may be your perception, but the RAGBRAI people tell us that it's an event for the entire community," Adams said.
Councilman Jerry Kloberdanz said that while he isn't serving on any of the committees yet, what he has been hearing is not all about the money to be made.
"The thing that we've been striving for, that I've been hearing the most is not how much money everybody is going to make. The first thing we want to be sure of is that people are safe and they can maneuver through the city without trouble," he said.
"We want businesses and organizations who wish to be involved to make as much money as possible, but if it's going to hamper public safety, I for one, am not in favor of that," Kloberdanz said. "But if ever single liquor establishment wanting to pick up part of the street to have ..."
"I don't think I said every one," Ross interjected.
"Well, we also have other businesses. And once we do this for one, they all will want to do the same thing. We have to look at that potential," Kloberdanz said.
"We have to look at that as a council - how is that going to affect the community as a whole," he said.
The council did approve the recommendation of the Hotel/Motel Tax Board to grant $25,000 in funding to the RAGBRAI committee for entertainment. These funds will match the $25,000 provided by the Webster City Chamber of Commerce and Association of Business and Industry.
Members of the entertainment committee met with the Hotel/Motel Tax Board on April 11 to present their proposal. The funding will be used to not only pay for a headlining band, but also cover the costs of other entertainment throughout the day. The committee members said that a headlining classic rock band from the 1970s has been selected to perform, but the contract has not yet been finalized. The committee members declined to reveal the name of the band until the contract was signed.