North Brunswick officials discuss waiving past fees for special events

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NORTH BRUNSWICK – The Township of North Brunswick has revised an ordinance pertaining to municipal fees for organizations holding special events, and decided to waive any previous fees prior to this year – which could total about $1 million.

According to ordinance 19-09, which was introduced on April 15 and adopted on May 6, administrative fees can include permits, health inspection fees, fire official fees if there are fireworks, alcohol sales and use of municipal property. Municipal fees can include fire, refuse, recycling, park, water/sewer, inspection fees, emergency management, regular police duty, etc.

A major event expects more than 1,000 attendees and participants, while a minor event would have fewer attendees than that. The specific events in question have been the Youth Sports Festival every June, and the Carnevale Italiano, which was held in July through 2017, resident Mark LaMonica mentioned at several past regular council and workshop meetings.

According to Chapter 166-7, a waiver for municipal fees can be granted if the organization provides some type of goods or services to the municipality, such as donating a piece of equipment for a park or using a non-municipal provider for recycling services. However, the application fee, administrative fees, off-duty police services, ambulance and first aid, state or federal fines, insurance premiums and bonding costs and private property usage fees will not be exempt.

However, LaMonica had taken issue with what he described as the exorbitant amount of money the township has laid out for such events in the past.

Business Administrator Kathryn Monzo, during the June 3 workshop meeting, asked council members if they wanted to create a resolution related to the ordinance to absolve the aforementioned organizations of their debts.

“The idea is to wipe the slate clean, if you will,” she said.

From 2013-18, the Youth Sports Festival averaged $40,000 per year in municipal services, according to Monzo, and the Carnevale averaged $17,500 per year over the past 10 years, though no event was held in 2018 nor is one planned this year.

Monzo said the resolution would be a blanket waiver for the past years through the new ordinance.

Councilman Ralph Andrews repeated, “How did this happen?” because the cost is at least $1 million per the estimations.

Monzo said there is no exact figure, but said the amount could be determined if needed by digging through archived emails.

“It’s kind of disheartening in a sense,” Andrews said.

Monzo said there had been attempts over the years to send invoices to the organizations.

“There were collection efforts. I don’t believe there was anything aggressive ever done,” she said.

Monzo said some emails had responses saying an organization did not want to or could not afford to pay for municipal services.

“It’s clear the administration at least didn’t follow our own ordinance in terms of making sure municipal services were invoiced,” she said.

Andrews and Councilman Carlo Socio supported the waiver for the Youth Sports Festival, since the organization financially supports various sports leagues in town, and since the organization has donated park equipment and such to the township.

Councilman Bob Corbin said now that a bookkeeping aspect is available, “I think it’s in place and now we have to move forward with it.”

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.