Dover votes no on youths’ New Year’s Eve event

DOVER — In an emergency meeting Tuesday morning City Council pulled the plug on a proposed New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Dover.

Council voted 7-2 to cancel the event first pitched by the Youth Advisory Committee in October.

Council members cited unmet deadlines and safety concerns as their reasoning for voting against the event, but also expressed hope such a celebration could be held in 2016.

Council President Timothy Slavin

Council President Timothy Slavin

“One of the things that were noted when this issue came before council previously was that it was a short window to get this done,” Council President Timothy Slavin said.

“There was a long discussion about that and when we acted as a city council we set forth the conditions to get this event green-lighted.

Last month city council voted 9-0 to accept recommendations from the committee regarding the event.

The recommendations included a proposal for the event and a request for support from the city for security, insurance, public announcement stages and facilities.

There were a few deadlines the committee had to commit to as well, which included securing permits for the event and road closures by Dec. 11.

Also, they had to provide the required documentation to use all private property associated with the planned event.

Mr. Slavin said those deadlines weren’t met.

“We were clear when we voted unanimously including Councilman (David) Anderson the conditions that were set forth. We put hard deadlines and said it was the city manager’s decision after that.”

Referring to city manager Scott Koenig, Mr. Slavin said, “He told us what he felt, which is why we’re here today.”

Down to the wire

The special council meeting was called late Monday after the Youth Advisory Committee met earlier in the day.

The youth committee consists of seven members and meets once a month. It allows teens ages 14 to 18 a chance to speak on issues that affect them, as well as develop leadership skills for the future.

Dover has not had a New Year’s Eve citywide event since 2010. The annual First Night celebration was canceled in 2011 after a 15-year run due to lack of funds.

The family-oriented event was going to be centered on Legislative Mall and along Loockerman Street.

It was going to include local vendors, businesses, live music and entertainment.

David Anderson

David Anderson

The committee raised $30,000, which were in-kind donations, said Councilman David Anderson, who serves as liaison between council and the committee.

He was disappointed by council’s decision.

“I think they made the wrong decision,” Mr. Anderson said. “There weren’t any real issues. There were a lot great people involved to help get this done.

“A lot of work went into this. We had majority of the paperwork in place. I think everything was taken care of.”

Council members also focused on the fact a special event permit was turned in on Tuesday morning, which is usually sent in 30 days prior to an event.

“The permit is for any special event that is held that includes areas of private property,” said Anne Marie Townshend, the city’s director of planning and community development.

“It’s reviewed by the Fire Marshal’s office and we look for a number things, like if there are food vendors we need to make sure they have their public health permits and we need to look at layouts to look at the emergency exits.

“There are times where we don’t get it 30 days ahead, but certainly three days ahead is very difficult to provide the review and give feedback on it,” she added.

“It was communicated back in October that this event waiver needed to be required.”

Timothy Mullaney Jr., a fire marshal and law enforcement officer for the city, highlighted a few items missing from the permit.

“I don’t have signature for the property owner for the Loockerman Plaza,” Mr. Mullaney said. “Mr. Anderson said that form has been filled out, but I haven’t seen that yet.

“Also there isn’t enough information describing the vent for me to know what’s exactly going to figure out what’s exactly needed.”

Mr. Slavin said the safety of everyone was his number one concern.

“I will not compromise the safety of our children,” he said. “It’s not up for negotiation. Life-safety issues and large events have to be addressed, known, planned for, accepted and timely.

“They then have to be communicated across a broad range of people. It’s not something that can be done at the last minute and we not have a good solid understanding of what’s expected of the event.”

Mr. Anderson disagreed, saying all the safety concerns were addressed.

“Safety is vital and the truth is safety concerns were addressed from the beginning,” Mr. Anderson said. “If the event happens there are no safety concerns that are going to endanger our children or our citizens.

“The city police said this event will be no more intrusive than Comic Con. It will be no more dangerous than a block party. It’s not something that we never had before.”

Change of heart

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. originally planned to vote to cancel the event, but said he had a change of heart when he didn’t hear any real safety concerns that would have stopped the event from happening.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr.

“I chose to vote against it because I didn’t hear anything that was detrimental regarding the safety of everyone,” Mr. Sudler said.

“I just heard about the deadlines that weren’t met, which I understand, but I think we could have helped them out a little.”

He and Mr. Anderson were the dissenting votes.

However, Councilman William Hare said the permits and safety goes hand and hand.

“They just turned in the special events permit today (Tuesday),” Mr. Hare said. “If we do get the permits and there are safety issues you have to have time to address them.

“I think if they at least turned the permits in sooner than I think that would have given everyone time to look over it to make sure everything was fine moving forward.”

Mr. Anderson said he was confident those needs could have been met, but council already had voted to cancel the event.

Mr. Sudler said as a councilman he felt a little responsible of the Youth Advisory Committee’s failure to hold the event.

“I think we came down way too hard on them,” Mr. Sudler said. “We have to lead by example and we have to support our youth.

“With them being the youth they’re going to make mistakes; we have to work with them. We played a significant role in their failure I think we could have at least to found a substitute.”

Lauren Scott, Youth Advisory Committee member

Lauren Scott, Youth Advisory Committee member

Youth Advisory Committee member Lauren Scott, 17, shared the same sentiment.

“I think they could have compromised with us,” she said. “If we did downscale it, we could have turned it into a block party. We invited a lot of people to this event, but how many people are going to show up?

“It’s the same when we have the Urban Music Festival, as a lot of people show up, but a lot of people come and go,” she said. “There isn’t that constant number of people in one place.”

But Mr. Anderson said he’s excited about the Youth Advisory Committee moving forward, as council members and other organizations are planning to work with group for future events.

“I think council has seen the work,” Mr. Anderson said. “People are taking us serious. I think that’s great that they are willing to step up and help us moving forward.

“The youth needs that guidance. The best is yet come,” he said.

“It’s a leap forward and I don’t think anything will hold us back in the future.”

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