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Festivals unite in talks with port

By Tom Hubka

Wescom Wire service

BROOKINGS – Three of the area's largest held at the Port of Brookings Harbor have united in order to negotiate with port officials over this year's events.

Organizers of the Slam'n Salmon Ocean Derby, the Southern Oregon Kite Festival and the Festival of the Arts submitted a proposal to the port Friday outlining what they are willing to pay for and what they are not.

This comes as the latest chapter in an ongoing issue between festival and port officials. Several weeks ago, festival officials became upset at the way they say they were treated by several port commissioners during meetings regarding new festival fees. Officials put their events on hold shortly after.

Port officials maintained they were under pressure from the state, the port's main creditor of its multi-million dollar debt, to act and operate more like a business. Also, they said the port was incurring costs as a direct result of the festivals.

Until last week, the three festivals had never acted in concert when dealing with the port.

"We sat down as a group and just ironed out what we thought was a fair proposal," derby co-founder Jim Relaford said.

"This is the first time we've ever had ... the three festivals sit down and talk about needs and the desire to work together."

Relaford is running for Port Commissioner Lloyd Whaley's seat in the May 15 election.

The proposal calls for no fees to be charged to the three festivals. Instead, the festivals will pay for "infrastructure needs to support festival activity," such as a new stage, flags, tables on the boardwalk, landscaping and electrical layout for the kite field.

"Festivals agree to fund these needs in lieu of fees, as they are able, from any net income gained by the festival," festival officials wrote in the agreement. "Festivals are not obligated to any certain amount, but will make best effort to fund these needs."

For 2007, the festivals propose they pay for the construction of a new stage as well as new flags for the boardwalk.

Port Executive Director Dave Scott, speaking for the port commission, wrote a letter of response saying a solution for the festivals and the port was near and main issues between the two were procedural rather than fee-related.

"These changes are needed to protect the port as well as the taxpayers," Scott wrote. "The new procedures will protect all parties, be fair to the festivals and, in addition, encourage additional festivals."

Scott's letter did not outline any details about the port's view on the negotiations, saying it did not want to be pressured for "quick answers."

The commission has "progressed in a business-like manner to make sure that all potential problems and risks to both the festivals and port have been, to the best of their ability, addressed," he wrote. "The commission realizes the importance of the festivals and the economic impact to the community and our businesses located at the port."

Scott said Tuesday he and the commissions were using the festivals' proposal as the footing for negotiations.

The festivals' proposal explains what festival officials feel each side is responsible for.

The festivals would provide all direct costs incurred by the port including supplies, labor, equipment and electricity. In addition, the festivals will provide any additional security needed and are responsible for any damage to port property.

The port, in turn, will provide normal cleaning and maintenance service, and will "ensure that facilities are in appropriate condition for the festivals."

"We're offering way more and want to offer way more," Festival of the Arts Chairperson Jo Mochulski said. "We want to give a lot to the port."

Officials on both sides have said negotiations might occur late this week after the port delivers its version of the proposal to the festivals.

 


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