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Heritage Days budget can't do the job, organizer says

Heritage Days co-chair Jim Domeier told the St. Paul Park City Council Monday there may be no band for the annual street dance, or fireworks, or Sunday events if the committee can't count on more money.

According to the city's 2009 budget -- approved Monday -- the Heritage Days committee will receive $22,000, down from the $24,000 it received for 2008.

Although the city budgets $22,000 for Heritage Days, it expects the festival to bring in $15,000, so the cost to the city is approximately $7,000, said city council member Jeff Swenson.

He suggested the council take $2,000 from an unallocated fund in the 2009 budget and give it to Heritage Days.

"This will be the 25th anniversary of Heritage Days and the city's centennial," Swenson said. "The committee is being asked to plan something special with less money than they had last year.

Council member Sandi Dingle agreed. "The Heritage Days festival is really important to the city, especially since it's our centennial year."

Council member Steve Hunstad said raising money for the '09 festival would be a "challenge for the committee to bring in more than the $15,000." Hunstad noted the St. Paul Park Athletic Association has requested a $2,000 donation from the city for equipment.

"Let's consider both requests at the same time," he said.

The city council agreed to discuss giving Heritage Days and the athletic association more money in early January.

"Right now we need $600 by the end of December to reserve a band for the street dance," Domeier told council members. He said he didn't think the committee could bring in $15,000 in donations simply because of the state of the economy. "And we need the money this winter, not in July or August. We need some guidance from the council. To work within the $22,000, we will have to eliminate the fireworks and possibly other activities as well. Where do you want to stop eliminating activities?"

The fireworks display costs approximately $4,200, according to committee co-chair Ruth Dinger.

Dinger said she hesitates to reserve the band because she's not sure if the street dance will take place.

"It all depends on how much in donations we receive from businesses and organizations," Dinger said. She said the committee needs between $1,300 and $1,500 to pay for extra police to patrol the dance, where visitors are allowed to drink on the street.

"That figure could, and probably will, increase," she said. "We have no control over it."

"So far we haven't received any donations," Dinger said. "If the committee doesn't raise enough to pay for the extra patrols, there won't be a dance, and we will have wasted the $600 up front money."

In past years, Dinger said the committee has looked for area businesses to sponsor the band (about $3,300) or the fireworks. "That would help us tremendously," she said.

Other expenses include $4,500 for the royalty program, $2,000 for a carnival, $1,000 for the Sunday afternoon garden tractor pull and approximately $1,500 for entertainment on Saturday afternoon.

"The big things can generally be covered, it's the little things that add up like the satellite toilets ($1,100), traffic barriers and the costs of the buttons and T-shirts," Dinger said.

Dinger said cutting the fireworks would allow the committee to work within the budget. "I would cut the fireworks before the band," she said.

To save money, the committee is looking at free entertainment for Saturday afternoon. Dinger said Willie Tennis of Tennis Sanitation, based in St. Paul Park, has agreed to bring back and organize outhouse races on Saturday -- an event that used to be a regular on Heritage Days but was discontinued.