PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — During the most recent regular meeting of the Presque Isle City Council, councilors agreed to hold a future public hearing regarding changes to their public assemblies ordinance, which concerns public safety and security at large city events.
City Manager Martin Puckett told the councilors at their Feb. 7 meeting that while reviewing potential ordinance changes for 2018, he came across the public assemblies ordinance that had not been changed since 1999. The ordinance states that any facility that holds an event with an anticipated crowd of over 400 people that is not sponsored by the City of Presque Isle has to inform Code Enforcement Officer George Howe and pay $300 to $450 for a permit to hold the event.
Facilities such as the Northern Maine Fairgrounds, Presque Isle Forum and SAD 1 are excluded from the ordinance because the city already collaborates with public safety officials for events such as concerts and sports games that easily attract over 400 people. City-sponsored events such as the annual Anah Shrine Circus at The Forum also are excluded.
Puckett said that he brought up the ordinance in part because of his concerns regarding large events that the city might not become aware of due to not being a direct sponsor. Council Chair Emily Smith agreed that reviewing the ordinance and fees would be worth the council’s time.
“I think it would be good for the city to know where certain events are, if public safety is involved and if there are enough exits for people to get out of in case of an emergency,” Smith said. “Having non-city-sponsored entities get a license is not only smart but necessary.”
“Was there anything that brought this to your attention? It seems like an obscure ordinance,” Councilor Leigh Smith asked Puckett.
“If there’s a big outdoor event and there’s alcohol involved, who’s to say that something won’t happen that we’re not prepared for?” Puckett said. “I always think of the Phish concerts as an example.”
Councilor Kevin Freeman wanted to know if the ordinance applies only to property inside the city limits. Puckett stated that the ordinance applies to all land in Presque Isle including Spragueville Road and Echo Lake. He noted that a facility such as the Nordic Heritage Center might obtain a permit for a large event such as biathlon competitions because the city is not a direct sponsor of those events.
“I agree with having those facilities get a permit, but I don’t think we necessarily need to charge them,” Freeman said.
“From my experience, some communities either charge a fee or just require that they be notified about large events,” Puckett explained. “If someone comes to us and proves that they have security for the event, that they’ve notified the police department and that they have accessible entrances and exits, then that’s something we can approve within a day.”
At the end of the discussion, Puckett said that no motion regarding the ordinance was needed from the council because all proposed changes to ordinances have to be reviewed during a public hearing.
“My idea was to get a few ordinances together and have a public hearing for all of them,” he said.
The councilors agreed to not make any changes to the public assemblies ordinance until a public hearing for that particular ordinance has been set. Any community members who wish to view the current ordinance can go to http://presqueislemaine.gov/city-ordinances/ and click on “Chapter 39: Public Assemblies Ordinance.”