SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe may begin to re-think its policies on waiving fees from some groups for use of the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and events held on the historic downtown Plaza.
On Tuesday, the city’s Finance Committee voted 3-2 to waive fees for use of the convention center for the annual Next Generation Water Summit for one year, though that was a compromise. The initial resolution, sponsored by Mayor Javier Gonzales and City Councilor Peter Ives, called for fees to be waived for the summit in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Committee chairman Carmichael Dominguez cast the deciding vote in favor, saying he was doing so “reluctantly” and to allow for the proposal to be considered by the full City Council. He then advised staff member Christine Chavez, “You better be prepared when you get to council.”
By that, he meant Chavez should be prepared to answer questions about how much money the city annually waives for events held at the convention center and on the Plaza.
The city currently allows each of the eight city councilors to waive fees for rental space for one event at the convention center and one event on the Plaza each year.
“The number of waivers we give, whether it’s the convention center or the Plaza, I think they are beginning to stack up on us,” said City Councilor Signe Lindell, who along with Mike Harris voted against the proposal.
Harris wanted to deny all requests to waive fees “until we really get a handle” on the total costs of what he called fee “giveaways,” but his motion was defeated by the same 3-2 count.
Fees for the water summit total $6,300 per year. Ives defended the cost, saying that Santa Fe had built a reputation for water conservation and the cost was intended to help grow the conference, which was attended by 130 people from eight states last year. He said the summit “elevates Santa Fe’s presence” regionally and nationally with regard to water conservation.
Chavez added that the many city employees attend the summit to receive training and learn new ideas related to water issues. Because the city waives fees for the convention center, those employees who attend don’t have to pay the $300 registration fee, she said. It was unclear how many city employees attend.
The proposal will be heard by the full City Council on Jan. 10.