Economic Development Director Ken Black presented a revised event sponsorship program, which he said was more focused on funding events that attract visitors to Dover. “What we’re attempting to do is really key these events more toward visitor impact and visitor draw in the area,” Black said, “How many people show up? That’s what we really want to gear it toward. So decisions will be based on a history of visitor impact.”
Funding for a particular event in subsequent years will be dependent on figures showing that the event has brought visitors into town, and indicating an impact on local businesses. “We’re looking for this to promote and enhance tourism in town, so they have to bring some numbers to the table to show that people are spending money in the town.”
One of the biggest proposed changes, and one that sparked discussion among board members, is the deadline for applications, which has doubled from 90 days before the event to 180 days before the event.
“We feel that, in order to successfully run the event, organizers need 180 days,” Black said. “So, when we get an application that is not at least 180 days out, we won’t consider it and you’ll never see it.”
“So if someone comes in four months out, this gives us no opportunity to consider it,” said board member Vicki Capitani. “Right now we’re lucky to get some of them 90 days out.”
“We’re looking to train people to look further ahead,” Black said. “If we want to look at bigger events with more draw, they’re going to need that time frame to promote the event.”
Capitani asked if the new policy would edge out smaller events in favor of larger events. “So that’s the goal, bigger events?” she asked. “Do we give up the (Living History Association’s) timeline?” Black said smaller events like LHA’s timeline were combining with other events – such as the blueberry festival.
Selectboard chair Randy Terk said it could be difficult for event planners to have the required information six months in advance of the event, and suggested there be some leeway in the first year of an event. “They may start planning well in advance,” he said. “But will they have all the details put together six months in advance?”
Black suggested the opposite, that event planners will need more time in the first year of an event.
“What problem are you trying to solve with this?” asked board member Tom Baltrus.
“To keep folks from showing up at the 11th hour with an event. We want to push this toward larger audiences and events that need a significant amount of time to plan and execute.”
Assistant director of economic development Pat Weisbrich added that the department was also trying to anticipate event funding in their budget. “We’re on a cash accounting system and we’ve seen a disconnect because some groups come in late. We tried to figure out a way we could potentially budget for these upcoming events, and if we have numbers in January or February, those numbers might be reflected in the budget. The blueberry festival, for example, is in July. If we can get that request in by the end of December, Ken can include it in the budget.”
Baltrus said he was concerned about “stifling creativity,” and Capitani said she was concerned about accessibility for smaller, home-grown events planned by community members. “This will help institutionalize the bigger events we have, and if we want to do that. I’m concerned we’ve moved it to the big league for those who have the resources to plan that far out.”
Baltrus and Capitani suggested cutting the deadline for applications to 120 days before the event. Terk suggested following the economic development department’s recommendations and revisiting the matter if a significant number of applicants are turned away because they don’t make the deadline. Capitani warned that it would “cut the smaller guys out.” Board members approved the changes.
In other festival discussions, ITVFest organizer Phil Gilpin asked if he could sell refreshments, soda and snacks, in Dover Park during a scheduled ITVFest event in the park. Gilpin said the event was free and open to the public. But board member Joe Mahon said he saw no reason to sell refreshments in the park. Local resident Buzzy Buswell said 7-Eleven is right next door to the park, “and their (1% local option tax) dollars were used for the park. Is it open to one vendor, or all vendors? Is it open to Buzzy’s Pizzeria if I want to open a stand and sell some slices?”
“I think anyone who wants to sell snacks could come before this board and ask us,” said Terk.
If the park were to be opened up to vendors and sales, Capitani said she could envision anything from non-profit bake sales to yard sales at the park. “Do we need a policy?” asked Terk.
Joan Black said the town should have a policy. “Otherwise every corner is going to be dotted with vendors. If you don’t have a policy, anyone can go in there tomorrow.”
Weisbrich said the conversation was veering away from what had been requested. “The request was by an event sponsor to have food at a portion of the event the sponsor is running. In that context, it’s my feeling that ITVFest should be able to define who’s there to sell beverages and snacks, whether it’s one vendor or 20 vendors.”
But Capitani pointed out that the park is open to the public on a first come, first served basis. “Phil can put his stuff on that gazebo,” she said, “but if someone else is already using it, he can’t reserve it.”
Terk said that was a reason he might not be in favor of a policy. “It’s a public park, go sit in the gazebo and sell some soda if you choose.”
Board members eventually voted against Gilpin’s request, but said they’d reconsider it in the future if circumstances change. They asked town administrator Carlo Pilgrim to research other towns’ public park policies.
Black also revisited the discussion of Andirons owner Richard Caplan’s offer to let the town use part of his property abutting the valley trail for parking at no cost other than a load of gravel to stabilize the soil. At the board’s previous meeting, board members expressed concern about a host of issues, and called for a written lease, rather than the “handshake agreement” suggested by Caplan and Black. Tuesday evening, board member Linda Holland reiterated her concerns. “What’s the town’s liability?” she asked. “I think there should be a formal document. Who’s to say we drop $1,500 in gravel there and someone does something stupid like donuts, and we’re kicked out of there?”
“I think the only risk is $1,500,” said Black. This time, Caplan was in the room for the discussion, and he reassured board members that he had no plans to develop the property. “That’s not going to happen,” he said, addressing Holland’s concern about the town losing access after investing $1,500 in gravel. “If you don’t want to do it, I’ll still let people park there. If you want to sign something, I’ll sign it. As for the liability end of things, I’m not really concerned – it’s more likely someone would get hurt on one of the trails.”
Terk suggested the town create a “letter of agreement” regarding the use of the lot. “You create it, and I’ll sign it,” agreed Caplan. Board members voted to expend up to $1,500 on gravel for the lot.