Oktoberfest and city fail to make a deal on parade fees
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Could the Oktoberfest parades get canceled because of city fees?
The Oktoberfest committee met with city officials Thursday to try to negotiate a deal that would keep this year's parades on the schedule.
Earlier this month, Oktoberfest put plans on hold for its Maple Leaf, Torchlight and Opening Day parades after the city announced it would charge an $18,000 fee.
After an hour of closed-door discussions Thursday, there was still no deal between Oktoberfest and the city.
When asked how likely it was that the parades could actually be canceled, Oktoberfest Executive Director Tina Severson said, "It's really based upon the agreement that we can come up with with the city. So right now, I would say anything's possible."
The $18,000 come as part of the city budget's new user fees, meant to make up for nearly half a million dollars lost in state aid.
"That's a figure that has been set using the same criteria that was set for other celebrations as well, so it really would not be fair for the Oktoberfest celebration to be exempt," said La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter.
Oktoberfest officials said they're actually operating the parade at a loss.
"We're currently averaging around $11,000 lost on the parade. So to stick another $18,000 on top of that gets to look like a bad business decision,” said Severson.
And it's not just the parade that's losing money. Thanks in part to the weather, Oktoberfest lost more than $40,000 last year.
Mayor Matt Harter said he recognizes how much money Oktoberfest brings in to local businesses. but it's costing the city a lot of cash and leaving taxpayers footing the bill.
"For public safety, it costs us in the neighborhood of $150,000 for everything associated with the Oktoberfest event as well as about $23,000 that it costs the public works department for services that are incurred associated with the parade," said Harter.
Both sides said they hope an agreement can be reached soon, because neither of them want to see the parades disappear.
"This parade is such a community service parade. And it's a piece that affects, I would say, the most amount of people within the town. It brings in people from all over, not just the city, not just the state, not just the surrounding states, but all over the U.S. And so to see it go away would be really heart-breaking," said Severson.
Severson said the committee is not necessarily opposed to paying the city a fee, but it's the dollar amount they disagree on.
There is no date set yet for another meeting between the Oktoberfest committee and city officials. Oktoberfest representatives said they'd like to get the issue settled as soon as possible so they can resume planning other events related to the parades.
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