Community event in-kind grant program: What needs fixing? How to control costs?

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The City of Northfield is hosting a meeting with community event organizers tomorrow night, Wed. March 24, 7 pm. It’s not clear who from City Hall will be there and who’s invited (it’s open to the public) because other than the date and time, there’s no meeting information available that I could find. I’m told that packets have been sent out to various stakeholders. I don’t know why the general public can’t have access to them.

The issue was on the Council Work Session agenda for March 9 and the proposed changes are detailed in the packet PDF, pages 9-32. I’ve excerpted some of the text here for convenience (see below).

Update 3/25/10: photos from last night’s meeting:

 community event organizers meeting Dean Kjerland at  community event organizers meeting  community event organizers meeting


The 2010 Mayor and Council budget included a $31,000 line item transfer in for the City expenditures supporting Community Events. $25,000 was transferred from the Police Department overtime budget and $6,000 was transferred from the Public Works/Street Division overtime budget. These funds were used in previous years to cover the staff time used in supporting community events.

Examples of previous city expenditures of community support include, but are not limited to: Defeat of Jesse James Days, showmobile events, Taste of Northfield, etc. To expend these funds in 2010, council will need to take action to approve and authorize the transfer of funds to another department that expends the resources.

The proposed method to accomplish distribution of these funds would be to develop an in-kind grant program similar to the process used for the Grace Whittier Fund. The Grace Whittier Fund was created in 1988 as a result of a gift from the estate of long time Northfield resident, Grace Whittier. The purpose of the Whittier Fund is to support recreational opportunities for Northfield youth.

The City of Northfield has created a grant process to award monies from the Whittier Fund to Northfield area organizations that program recreational activities for children and youth. The Community Events In-Kind Grant Program could function in a similar way to provide an open, inclusive, transparent way to make decisions on providing city funding for community events. Some of the elements of this program could include:

All applications would be due at one time to allow for consistent review and consideration;

• Applications would be due by April 30, 2010. An earlier deadline should be established for subsequent years;

• Review of the community event in-kind grant program/event application by staff. Staff would provide estimated city costs related to the proposed event and other recommendations/proposed conditions as needed;

• The Council developing the criteria guidelines for awarding these grants based on the values and goals the council would want these events to help achieve;

• Review of the application by a small work group of city council members who would then make recommendations on the events and in-kind grant award amounts to be funded;

• Grant applications and recommendations submitted to the entire council to approve the in-kind grant awards.

In response to this new method of community event support management, staff has developed a proposed application and policy related to events/use of public property. As noted above, the actual in-kind grant program needs to be developed to address the distribution of funds. Staff recognizes that there are many smaller events that occur throughout the year that exceed the amount budgeted and may not be known at the time of the grant application process.

Listed below is an example of community events that currently occur on public property that involve the use of in-kind support (whether it be through waiving of fees, staff support through delivery & pickup of equipment, police assistance, etc.). The associated costs incurred by the City exceed the $31,000 budgeted.

• Defeat of Jesse James Days
• Taste of Northfield
• Showmobile events
• July 4th Celebration
• Arts Swirl
• Crazy Days
• Winter Walk
• Bike Races
• Parades (St. Patrick’s Day)
• Other Walkathons, Marathons, etc.
• Other Misc. Events

In addition to the community event in-kind grant program and related cost implications of special events, a method/policy is needed to ensure that decisions regarding approval or denial for events are:

• Being considered using an open, inclusive, transparent method using the same set of criteria

• Appropriate insurances & licenses are being obtained/City’s risk exposure is being properly evaluated

• Protection of public health, safety and welfare of citizens is adequately addressed • Adequate staffing levels are in place to provide for the event.

Currently community in-kind support for events/use of public property are approved through several different processes related to the specific needs of each event such as:

It continues for many more pages.


  1. I would like to encourage every organization that puts on a special event on city owned land to attend this work session. It is very important that your voice gets heard on this topic.
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled Sam Haugen) =-.

    March 23, 2010
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Hayes, what was your take on last night’s meeting? I arrived late and left early but overall, it seemed constructive and well-handled by Mayor Mary Rossing, Joel Walinksi, Police Chief Mark Taylor, and Brian Erickson, Public Works Operations Engineer.

    I’ve added 3 photos from the meeting to the blog post above.

    March 25, 2010
  3. Griff,

    I thought the meeting was very constructive and very well handled. All of the questions were answered. There are a few question marks, I can’t remember what they all were but I think this new process will work out real well for everyone!
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled Sam Haugen) =-.

    March 25, 2010
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Deb Little, City Clerk, has this in today’s Friday Memo:

    The Mayor hosted a community events meeting on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 to gather feedback and input on the draft events application and policy from the volunteers that host and organize Northfield’s many wonderful community events.

    The meeting was attended by approximately 22 events organizers representing 11 different organizations, as well as city council members and staff. There were many good questions, suggestions and comments regarding the proposed policy as well as discussion on encouraging community events and collaboration. The group would like to meet again to review and discuss the next draft of the proposed policy. It is anticipated that this item will be back before the council in mid April with a May 15 deadline for events applications.

    March 26, 2010
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    The City Council approved a new policy for its Community Event In-Kind Grant Program last night. See pages 47-62 of the packet.

    Nfld News: Council approves new event aid policy

    Groups hosting public events or celebrations must now go through a formal application process if they want to use city property or receive in-kind assistance from the city.

    On Tuesday, the Northfield City Council approved the new policy, which will tighten the city’s oversight of the in-kind services and support the city provides for community-wide events, city officials say.

    April 21, 2010
  6. kiffi summa said:

    There is a deeper issue embedded in this one, and it goes straight to the heart of the city’s money woes.

    The council needs to have a big fat policy discussion, at a work session, IMO, this one topic only … what will be the guiding principle in making the budget cuts we MUST make?

    They must evaluate the benefit to the citizens of each and every high staff salary, and how those $$ directly result in taxpayer benefit.

    They must look at every service provided and ask if it can be differently done while still providing what the resident needs. (i.e., the street plowed so that resident can get to work, earn some money, and pay their taxes)

    The Council needs to have that DEEP discussion, and I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet…

    April 23, 2010
  7. Ray Cox said:

    Three cheers for Kiffi….you are right on. For the past few years we have seen our state, county and city budgets stumble—but there has been a resounding silence from many leaders. I think 2010 is the year the hammer is dropping on public budgets. For at least the past three years private businesses have gone through terrible times. We have laid off employees. We have eliminated every ounce of fat in our budgets. We have been cleaning toilets, mowing lawns and plowing snow after full work days. But the one ongoing thing that does not escape any of us is the steady increase in public budgets. That has to change.

    Most public budgets, salaries, benefits, and jobs are going to have to go through an entire paradigm shift. All are going to have to be reevaluated in relation to what the public will support and at what level. We can no longer protect the status quo. Because that is how we have been doing things for the past 20 years no longer will work.

    Hopefully the city administration and city council understand the grave situation we are in and they will be able to make fair reductions to our city budget. One thing I believe works very well is for the administration to come up with twice the number of reductions needed. In other words if we need $1 million in reductions, prepare a list of $2 million. That way the city council can honestly and in the open evaluate options and select the reductions that will work and that the public will accept. While serving on the school board we used this process several times as we dealt with budget reductions. It is much better than a $1 million ‘take it or leave it’ list.
    .-= (Ray Cox is a blogger. See a recent post titled Barn repair) =-.

    April 26, 2010
  8. Tracy Davis said:

    Councillor Betsey Buckheit had an excellent blog post outlining the history of this issue and her thoughts on how it’s been handled. I’m disappointed that the City Council did not take the opportunity to reverse an unwise decision and fix a bad process.

    It’s no good relying on “process” as the reason for a decision when the process is patently flawed, as this one was.

    July 14, 2010
  9. kiffi summa said:

    I think one of the worst outcomes, besides the flawed process, was the 5-2 vote against trying to correct the process. Councilor Zweifel stated that this was a council, that in its beginnings, said it would always be willing to look at anything it had done, and see if it could have been better, i.e. a council that was willing to re-evaluate its own actions.

    Sadly, it was not to be the case. The three councilors on the grant committee, Vohs, Pownell, and Denison were against the re-evaluation and Pokorney and Rossing joined them in the Nay vote.

    A good intention, lost.

    July 14, 2010
  10. Oh sorry Tracy I did not see your comment above…sorry for the double posting.

    July 15, 2010
  11. I have lived in Northfield my entire life, I was born at the Northfield Hospital, attended Northfield Schools, graduated from Northfield High School, and worked in the Northfield “community” since I was 17 years old. I own a home in Northfield and I pay taxes in Northfield. I started volunteering in various capacities with “community” events in Northfield when I was 20 years old and have been active within this “community” ever since. Yes, I am the definition of a “townie”, and proud to be so.

    I can sympathize with having to make budget cuts that are difficult, as I was laid off from my position with a local company after 12 years. I know first hand what downsizing can mean. I also know first hand what “community” events can do for a “community” with many citizens in the situation I currently found myself in.

    “Community” events are what keep our town a “community”.

    “Community” events bring neighbors together.

    “Community” events gather families together.

    “Community” events give people a sense of purpose.

    “Community” events bring visitors to our town to spend money at local businesses in our hurting economy.

    “Community” events bring a bit of joy to people in hard times.

    “Community” events bring pride.

    “Community” events bring networking.

    “Community” events raise funds for local non-profits who help those in need in our “community”.

    “Community” events provide hope.

    The City Council took the “community” out of “Community” Events with their decision at Tuesday evening’s meeting. Volunteers are the life blood of a “community”, they are people who do what they do because they truly believe that these “community” events are for the greater good of our “community”.

    The “community” event policy has sent a message to the thousands of volunteers within our “community” that the City does not value their hard work and what it does for the economy and the quality of life in our “community”.

    The funds raised at the numerous “community” events held during the year are recycled throughout the Northfield “community” in ways that would not be possible by the City themselves. The more money the City charges non-profits for City services is less money that the non-profits can put back into programs and services provided to our youth, our less fortunate and our elderly within this “community”.

    As a long time volunteer within our “community” I know the large amounts of funds that are raised during some of these “community” events by various non-profit organizations and how it impacts the lives of many Northfield Citizens through programs provided, services provided and donations made by local service groups and non-profits.

    The amount of in-kind services the City provides to the various “community” events that happen throughout the year in Northfield, isn’t anywhere near the amount of money that is returned in many different ways by the non-profit organizations and service groups who are raising money at these “community” events. The City could not afford to fund these programs that are funded by money raised at “community” events.

    At a recent City Council meeting where a citizen commented on the funds that the City spends within a four block section of downtown Northfield, Mayor Rossing responded that she felt that spending funds on the downtown district was money well spent and an investment in tourism which puts “heads into beds” in Northfield. She is correct. Tourism does put heads into beds, as well as butts in chairs in restaurants, feet in local shops, cash in local cash registers and donations to local non-profits who use those funds for the good of our community.

    Couldn’t this same statement be true of “community” events? Don’t “community” events do the same thing? I am not saying that we as planners and volunteers of “community” events should not be conscious of the cost of services to the City of Northfield. We are and should be, very conscious of it.

    Unfortunately the process of implementing the “Community Event” In-Kind Services policy by the City Council was greatly flawed. But as the numerous non-profit organizations and volunteers in Northfield know so well how to do; we will regroup, do the best we can with what we have and continue to put our heart and soul into making sure our “community” is a better place because of the wonderful “Community Events” the non-profit groups provide to the City of Northfield.

    July 15, 2010
  12. Tracy Davis said:

    I met with Rhonda Pownell yesterday on another issue and asked her about this. From her comments I wondered again whether the Council was given adequate and thorough enough information upon which to base their decision. It’s tough to make a good decision with bad data.

    I’ve heard from many, many people over the past few weeks who are frustrated that there seem to be nickel-and-dime cuts being made to the City budget without action being taken on big-ticket items. This is another example of that.

    Since several of these community events, i.e. DJJD and Winter Walk, are excellent marketing and tourism tools for the City, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the EDA to look at some funding of these events out of their budget?

    July 20, 2010

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