Courier Staff Writer
The Parks Advisory Board brewed an idea to ensure that annual, major events in Ottumwa Park could be able to secure their shelter reservations a year in advance.
Currently, the earliest a shelter can be reserved is at 8 a.m. Jan. 2 on a first-come, first-served basis.
But certain events have been held annually for several years, including the Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races, Memorial Day celebration and Race for the Cure.
“I would hate to see that stuff disappear because somebody jumped in line the first day of January before someone else could get there,” said board president Bob Beisch at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Board member Robert LaPoint suggested that the day after an annual “major, successful event” at the Jimmy Jones Shelter, that those who organized the event have the opportunity to apply that day for the shelter reservation for the following year.
“If they plan on having it the next year, then they send their application to the parks board, and they have to come each time to begin reserving a year in advance,” Beisch said. “Maybe that will solve all of the problems. It would give major events an opportunity to apply immediately for the use of the facility the following year.”
That leads to the next task: defining criteria for a “major” event, which City Attorney Joni Keith said she would work on for the next parks board meeting.
“Instead of a permanent reservation, right after the event they would be eligible to reapply,” said board member Sarah Sels. “So instead of having this [reservation] for the rest of eternity, if the criteria is met, they would be eligible to reapply.”
Police Chief Jim Clark also clarified questions about law enforcement at large events at Jimmy Jones.
“Most events people will pay, particularly if it’s on city property and we fill out a form that approves it, but if there’s alcohol involved we must have law enforcement security,” Clark said. “You have to realize that the police department is different. A crowd of 5,000 — it doesn’t matter what it’s for or if people have paid or not — if something bad happens, and we were not there because we didn’t get paid, the city looks terrible.
“Whether it’s a political event, a large gathering of anyone, we’ll have police there. We’d like to be reimbursed, but if we’re not, we’re still going to be there.”
Councilman Brian Morgan said this new policy would help major events secure high-quality entertainment in advance.
“I would like to do something again on [July 4],” Morgan said of the Fourth of July event he organized last year. “I got the Jimmy Jones Shelter reserved, but I’m finding already that six-and-a-half months out, trying to get bigger-named entertainment — good luck, ’cause I’m already late. It really limits you when you don’t know six to eight months out.”
Parks Director Gene Rathje suggested that this new policy only apply to Jimmy Jones, since it is large enough to host all major events.
Board member Dale Dommer also suggested that those requesting a reservation a year in advance give a nonrefundable, up-front payment right then.
Keith also said she would incorporate into the new policy a statement that reservation requests must first go to the parks board before continuing on to the City Council.
Also discussed at the Parks Advisory Board meeting:
• Rathje said last year’s Ottumwa Park campground hosts, Richard and Mary Runnion, have reconsidered and are planning to return this year.
• Rathje said Operation ReLeaf will begin on Monday. Private property owners can begin ordering trees at City Hall. Parks staff picked out seven species of trees, of which a maximum of two per household can be ordered for $25 each. Trees will be distributed on April 20 in the Beach Ottumwa parking lot. Citizens will need to pay for the trees when they place their order and can only pay by check; no cash or credit cards will be accepted. The trees must be planted on private property, not in the right-of-way, and only for those who are Alliant Energy customers.