Deal likely to keep Seafood Festival at John’s Pass Village

MADEIRA BEACH – An agreement that would continue the popular Seafood Festival as an annual attraction at John’s Pass Village appears likely, based on comments made at the City Commission workshop Feb. 21.

The event’s survival had appeared in doubt after the festival run last October, when the John’s Pass Merchants Association announced that they would no longer be a sponsor. The reasons cited for the pullout were “costs that have multiplied five times over the past five years” and a lack of financial support from the city.

City Finance Director Walter Pierce had said earlier in the year that the Seafood Festival lost money for the city, and commission members have said events should not cost the city money.

The commission reacted to the Merchants Association’s announcement by passing a resolution reconfirming the city’s support for the Festival. City Manager Jonathan Evans said at that time the city would “do whatever we can to make sure this event happens each and every year in Madeira Beach.”

At the Feb. 21 meeting, the city made good on that pledge, proposing additions and modifications to the partnership contract with the Seafood Festival committee that Evans said in a memo on the subject would “ensure the event’s long-term success and viability.”

In the memo on the contract changes, Evans said the city has traditionally waived the parking fees associated with the Seafood Festival, and charged the direct costs (related fire protection, sanitation, policing, road closures and other ancillary costs) to the event organizers.

Under the new proposed agreement, the city will get the parking revenue, and charge a $20 fee to park in city-owned lots. Also, the city will now pay the direct costs associated with the festival, provided those costs do not exceed $8,500.

The city and the Merchant’s Association will share the costs of law enforcement for traffic safety and perimeter security, and the city will negotiate with the Sheriff’s Office to decrease the rate levied.

The Merchant’s Association will incur the costs for event security, protecting their own property and equipment.

Evans reported at the end of the meeting that he had received a message from Sonny Flynn of the Merchant’s Association that they are amenable to the changes being discussed. The proposed agreement is expected to be finalized and brought back to the commission for a vote.

Improvements at John’s Pass Village

Changes that would “spruce up the look, feel and experience people have at John’s Pass Village” were discussed by consultants Al Carrier of Deuel and Associates and Chris Anuszkiewicz of Placemaker Design Studios.

The possible changes ranged from improvements in seating, planters, trash receptacles, lighting options and landscape elements to a potential redesign of the village, which Evans said could “create a sense of place” and “change the feel of the tourist experience.”

Commission members were in favor of “sprucing up” and updating the village, but were reluctant to do any major redesign.

“It certainly needs an update,” said Mayor Maggi Black.

But Commissioner Nancy Hodges discussed a meeting she and Evans had with the Village merchants.

“They wanted very simple things,” like a general cleanup, more seating, and new trash receptacles, Hodges said.

“I don’t want to change the look of John’s Pass Village,” Hodges cautioned.

Commissioner Deby Weinstein said she agreed with Hodges.

“(The public areas) are city property. Our responsibility is to make sure it looks nice,” Weinstein said. She spoke of adding a seating wall around planters.

“We’ve never done a good job of keeping (the Village) clean,” Weinstein said. “We should do what it costs to provide a good experience.”

Recommended fixes for the marina

Evans presented a 25-point “Corrective Action Plan” for the City Marina to address “the deficiencies/insufficiencies articulated in the findings” of a detailed audit of the Marina operation.

The internal control recommendations covered changes to a range of items and procedures, including system passwords, gate codes and accesses, surveillance cameras, Marina agreements, dry storage and wet slip spaces numbering and availability. The topics to be addressed include customer invoice reviews, late fee assessments, transient rental rates, fuel delivery, invoices and discounting, boat launch receipts, ship store sales and inventory and employee purchases.

Other recommendations related to technology improvements, adding personnel, site design and layout changes, physical security and personnel training.

Evans said the change recommendations were made after meeting with city staff and “were appropriate to ensure that losses are minimized and opportunities to generate revenue are realized.”