By James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –
Some members of the Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA) say Daytona Beach has been discriminatory when it comes to charging the organization fees for special events such as the upcoming Biketoberfest. SAMA members argue that some of the fees, such as clean-up and security, are not charged to other merchant associations.
SAMA members expressed their concerns to city commissioners recently while asking for control over vendors who use Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard during special events.
Hardy Smith, Daytona Beach’s Government Relations administrator, told the Times that the effort 20 years ago to make Second Avenue part of Bike Week "was not to discriminate but to provide (them an) opportunity in Bike Week with more favorable circumstances.’’
Vendors who participate with SAMA pay the association directly. For Biketoberfest, it’s $300 to sell non-food items and $450 to sell food. SAMA keeps the fees collected and in turn provides services such as security and portable toilets.
Smith said discrimination charges can go both ways, noting that SAMA pays the city $400 for use of the entire boulevard from Ridgewood Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Individual vendors on Main Street and Beach Street pay $600 each to participate during special events such as Biketoberfest.
Although the vendor charge directly to the city is $600 each, property owners can charge vendors whatever he or she wants to make their profits, with the vendors charging what they need to on their wares or food items to get a return on their investment and make a profit, Smith pointed out.
Even though there is a Main Street Merchant Association and Downtown Daytona Beach Partnership Association, which are similar to SAMA, the first two associations "pay nothing" to the city for police, clean-up, public toilets on public property such as streets, sidewalks or the park, Smith said.
Smith said he believes everything works out the same with the extra charged to each vendor on Main Street and Beach Street.
No potty fee
Smith said SAMA charges each vendor enough to cover the charges they will incur by the city for police, clean up, etc. He explained that one of the main reasons for the arrangement with SAMA is because of the two parks in the area – Joe Harris Park and Daisy Stocking Park.
"If you left out the parks, it would be a different situation, he said.
At the recent meeting, SAMA officer Perman Shepard, told commissioners: "We have been taking care of Bike Week for 15 years. We have run into a problem. We take care of all the fees. We pay for the garbage, all the city money, fire department and police department.’’
Shepard is upset that there are some property owners and vendors who do not go through them and pay the city a one-time fee, but pay nothing to SAMA. However, they are allowed to take advantage of the port-o-lets in the area and contribute nothing to clean-up or security.
"These fees come out of our budget, which is low at this time. We are requesting SAMA take care all of the permits on MMB (Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard). We were responsible for all permits; sometime down the line it was changed," added Shepard.
Commissioner Edith Shelley said she is concerned that SAMA has been charged for garbage pickup and police while the merchant associations on Main and Beach aren’t charged.
Added Commissioner Pam Woods: "Fees need to be in line with what others are paying. Let’s look at that. This could be a problem. Everybody’s independent but nobody is accountable. SAMA is the one left holding the bag. In other parts of the city, not one is left holding the bag.”
Commissioner Cassandra Reynolds became upset after learning SAMA was being billed for certain issues that other merchant associations weren’t paying.
"For whatever reason, for Main Street, we eat the issues. SAMA is being billed for the issues. We need to say they need to not be billed anymore; we’ll eat the issues on Second Avenue (Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard) as well," added Reynolds.
Commissioner Robert Gilliland stated: "If somebody commits a crime on public property, how can we bill them (SAMA)? That money needs to be refunded to SAMA unless they have evidence SAMA did this.’’
Woods, citing information she obtained that SAMA is charged $17,000 for Bike Week and $9,000 for Biketoberfest: "It’s not to say we are eating it. You can’t go out and pick somebody arbitrarily. That needs to change.’’
Issue of sewers
Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick said SAMA represents businesses from Ridgewood to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"There has always been one, two or three independents. We permit the independents separately and they pay the appropriate fees. But SAMA, because they represent the area, has always paid for police fire, traffic, garbage and they always made arrangements for port-a-lets," he explained.
McKitrick said the reason SAMA event coordinator Barbara Turner-Hymes is complaining is "recently our utilities department has been much stricter about the greases and materials put down storm sewers. Not knowing who else to charge, they charged SAMA."
Main Street and Beach Streets are the exact opposite of Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard, said McKitrick.
"We have no Main Street Association and Downtown Merchants Association who steps forward and puts together the festival. We have an aggregation of packages of individuals of applications," added McKitrick.
"If someone pours grease down the sewer, who do you bill?" asked Woods.
Answered McKitrick: "To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never had that problem. Never had to figure it out.’’
"What if it’s another kind of problem. Who do you bill on Main Street?’ asked Woods.
"I don’t know," McKitrick said.
Woods countered: "Paul, unless we can identify the property owner we’re left holding the bag.’’
City to SAMA: Work it out
About the vendor control issue, Commissioner Patrick Henry and other city officials believe SAMA needs to work the vendor issues out without their involvement.
"If I was a business owner and I don’t want to be part of an organization, I have the right to apply for a permit and do what I want to do on my property. There is no law that says they have to be a part of SAMA," Henry said.
"We’re sitting here tonight because they are at an impasse and there is no way they can work it out among themselves," said McKitrick, adding that SAMA needs to sit down and work it out among themselves.
"I don’t want to get involved," said Shelley about requiring vendors to come under SAMA but reiterating she is concerned about SAMA being charged for fees that other streets such as Main and Beach Street are not being charged.
Mayor Glenn Ritchey added: "This commission is not interested in getting involved with individual merchants. They need to work it out themselves. Properties need to come in compliance year-round so they can have Bike Week activities.’’