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M’boro Council studies Festival fee

MURFREESBORO — It is yet to be seen if the Town of Murfreesboro will require vendors at the Watermelon Festival to obtain a special permit and pay a fee.

Last week, the Murfreesboro Town Council agreed to form a committee made up of various town officials as well as members of the Watermelon Festival Committee to study the issue.

Requiring a permit for Watermelon Festival vendors has been a topic of discussion previously for the board, though no action has been taken.

Before their consensus to form the committee, Brenda Watson with the Murfreesboro Historical Association appeared before the Murfreesboro Town Council during public comment to ask board members to make a decision regarding the matter.

“One issue that has been brought up after the Watermelon Festival this last time was the fact that the vendors do not have a permit (from the town),” said Watson. “What I would like to request at this point is for council to take action today to get this resolved, because shortly we will be sending out letters to the vendors for the 2011 Watermelon Festival.”

Watson said the Association has had a discussion about a town permit fee with Mayor John Hinton, Councilman Lloyd Hill and Town Administrator Lee Capps.

“My recommendation on this would be not to charge the craft vendors, I think they are a different lot than what the food vendors are; that we charge the food vendors a $10 fee for a special Watermelon Festival permit, that is designated as a special permit,” Watson said.

She continued by saying that the organization would collect the $10 fee like the health inspection fees, and then remit to them to the county.

Watson said she believed that would alleviate some of the “competition” problems the event has experienced between street vendors and vendors on the Watermelon Festival grounds.

“I would like for you to consider that and please take action on it today so we can get it resolved,” she said.

Later in the meeting town officials discussed the matter.

Capps noted that the board had previously wanted the combination of a council member, a police officer along with Code Enforcement Officer Gene Flowers and himself to work with the Watermelon Festival Committee on the matter and the report back to council with a recommendation.

The festival typically has approximately 15 food vendors.

After some discussion, Flowers said he had contacted some similar sized communities that hold festivals and the way each one handled it varied from charging vendors who have set up outside of the grounds a $100 fee while others licensed the vendors. Others charged a garbage fee to each vendor per day.

“It’s what you want to do, not what is any kind of protocol,” he said.

Councilman Bill Theodorakis seemed underwhelmed by a $10 permit fee, noting that everything is furnished. He was in agreement that there should be some kind of permit fee for vendors.

“We just need to get it organized so it will eliminate the problems we’ve had in the past,” said Theodorakis.

“We haven’t charged for the last 25 years and I think we have to charge something,” said Hill. “It’s $10 more than we charged last year.”

After further discussion, Capps suggested a committee be formed of two council members, two Watermelon Festival Committee members, Police Chief Darrell Rowe, Flowers and himself.

“I think that committee would represent the separate issues that we’ve talked about, that small group would convene and address and sort through (those issues),” he said.

Hinton along with Mayor Pro-tempore Molly Eubank volunteered to work with the committee. Capps was directed to contact the Murfreesboro Historical Association for two members from that entity.