Oktoberfest faces heftier price tag from city

Published On: Nov 13 2012 05:38:55 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 13 2012 05:55:47 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Oktoberfest brings La Crosse a lot of attention, tourists and bratwursts every year.

But it also brings with it a lot of work on the city's end.

Now the city plans to charge Oktoberfest a heftier price for it.

It's not easy preparing for 150,000 people to line the streets for the Maple Leaf Parade. Setting up barricades and detours, filling in potholes and shooing away parade squatters take time and money. So does disposing of the three tons of trash collected after the parade is over.

"All of that together in this past year totaled about $24,000," said City Public Works Director Dale Hexom.

The Board of Public Works agreed not to charge Oktoberfest anything for that in 2012.

“Nothing. Zero," said Hexom.

So the Oktoberfest Board knew it would be reaching deeper into its pockets for the 2013 Fest to help pay the city for its work.

Based on previous estimates of overtime, Oktoberfest Executive Director Tina Severson expected it would be about $4,000.

So she was surprised when the Public Works Board voted to charge the Fest $11,000 instead.

"The numbers obviously shocked me a little bit. I knew that there was a number. The size was shocking," said Severson.

That $11,000 price tag includes not only overtime labor, but incidental labor and equipment costs as well.

But that dollar amount isn't final. Oktoberfest can chip away at it if they can get volunteers to do some of the things the city is currently on the hook for, like barricading and trash pick-up.

“Later this week, my street superintendent will be meeting with the Oktoberfest executive director and they will be talking about and trying to find ways in which perhaps Oktoberfest could assist with some of those types of clean-up activities," said Hexom.

The Oktoberfest Board is also looking at ways it can cut expenses without cutting into the quality of the Fest.

"We're kind of in the same boat as we were last year. You know, how much can you continue to push forward, depend on sponsorships? How many expenses can you cut and still have a good event?" said Severson.

Last year, Oktoberfest threatened to cancel its big Maple Leaf Parade during a dispute with the city over parade fees. Severson said she’s not ruling out that happening again this year.

The next Board of Public Works meeting is Nov. 26.

The La Crosse Police Department has an agreement already in place to charge Oktoberfest about $10,000 for the 2013 Fest. That's the same as 2012. Oktoberfest provides some of its own security to help offset that cost.