The city's custom of furnishing the Aquatennial with free police may be nearing an end.
On July 12, the City Council approved this year's Aquatennial permits and special events in a 12-0 vote. But there could be strings attached next year.
"I think that they should be charged for the services they're getting," Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said. "I think if they're going to have a cop for every single solitary corner for a parade or two, plus a block party, plus closing off streets, then there's a cost for that."
Goodman told fellow councilmembers that because of the city's budget problems, it's no longer appropriate to give the festival free police and public works services. She estimates the benefit at $500,000.
Goodman said the city must find ways to relieve Minneapolis taxpayers of the burden. She recommended that city officials tally those costs and report back in six months with recommendations for "a fee that both the Aquatennial and the city can live with."
That motion passed unanimously.
Goodman said the Downtown Council, the Aquatennial's new organizers, are already seeking private funding for future city costs.
Todd Klingel, Downtown Council executive vice president, said his organization is working with the city to calculate the value of the freebies. He had no immediate estimate, and could not confirm Goodman's half-million-dollar figure.
Asked if the Downtown Council could afford to pick up the city's Aquatennial tab, Klingel said only that he would need to discuss that issue further with officials.
"It is the only official civic celebration for the city of Minneapolis," he said. "And I think it would be surprising if they turned their back on it."
Goodman doesn't seem to want Aquatennial to pay full freight. "I think we need to provide the services, but maybe at a different rate," she told councilmembers. "There has to be some fee for it."
She said other city festivals such as the May Day celebration and the Gay Pride festival don't get equivalent breaks.
"We can no longer afford to provide free police, public works and fire services for some festivals and not for others," she said. "Really, for me it's a fairness issue."