May 21, 2019

Ordinance snafu delays enforcement> Pittsfield allows Egg Festival to bend rules

PITTSFIELD — Police plan to look the other way later this month when the annual Egg Festival carnival comes to town.

In the wake of a conflict over control of events in the park, a serious scrutiny of town park ordinances this spring revealed that carnivals are banned from Manson Park. Egg Festival events traditionally have been held at the park.

But Police Chief Steve Emery and Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty agreed that the solution for this season’s event is temporarily to ignore the ordinance, because two committees are rewriting the park rules.

The issue of what can and cannot be held in the park surfaced last fall when the park committee attempted to increase revenue by “renting” the lower section of the park for a wedding.

Questions were raised about who had the authority to allow liquor in the park — the Town Council or the Manson Park Committee. State law allows liquor in municipal parks, only if the park overseers approve.

But town ordinances passed in the 1970s are more stringent than state law, and prohibit the possession or consumption of alcohol in town parks.

In early June, the Manson Park Committee presented a four-page suggested ordinance to the town’s Ordinance Committee. At the June 20 meeting of the Town Council, Councilor Everett Connor said he did not agree with the wording of the suggested ordinance, and asked that the issue be brought before the council.

Mayor John Ring said it was up to the committee to discuss the issue with the Manson Park Committee, and bring recommendations and a proposed revised ordinance to the council for acceptance.

As of this week, no Ordinance Committee meeting has been held.

With time getting short and only one council meeting scheduled for July, it seems that the Egg Festival carnival will arrive before a revised ordinance is accepted.

The revised ordinance nearly duplicates the current ordinances, with two notable exceptions. Carnivals and alcohol would be allowed, with the permission of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

Dogherty said he agreed with the proposal to include carnivals as a permitted use. “After all, it hasn’t been a problem in the past,” he said. The carnival has been held for nearly two decades.

“You have to remember, the ordinances were written before the bottom half of the park was developed,” said Dogherty, adding that including carnivals in the proposed ordinance would only reflect current uses of the park.

But the issue of allowing alcohol at special functions has townspeople and council members split.

Connors said at the last council meeting he thought the intent of the park was as a family recreation facility, and he steadfastly opposed alcohol in the park.

Dogherty said he also saw it as a conflict, with signs all over the park prohibiting alcohol and then allowing it in a special section, for special purposes.

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