Anger Erupts at Hazleton Council Meeting Over Fees

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HAZLETON -- The Hazleton City Council meeting essentially turned into a screaming match Wednesday evening between some council members and organizers of an annual festival.

The folks behind Funfest are challenging a proposed ordinance that would force them to pay the city permit fees to cover the use of city resources during their event.

Anger and emotions erupted at the Hazleton City Council meeting as council member Karin Cabell and Funfest founder Joe Scarcella lashed out at each other.

“You`ve been in the red for three years. Do not try to make the city a scapegoat for the demise of Funfest. It is unfair,” said Cabell.

“I meet people every day and we`re being accused of having the city in financial straits,” said Scarcella.

At issue is a controversial proposed ordinance that would impose on organizers of events, such as Funfest, a fee on permits needed for their event if city resources are being used.

For the past 32 years, Funfest has thrown a weekend block party in September and required the use of police and fire but has not had to pay.

The mayor of Hazleton said Funfest costs the city around $20,000 and with a $1 million shortfall expected this year, the city cannot afford to cover those costs.

However, organizers of Funfest said they too have a limited budget and the fees could force the event to close.

“They want to put all of these charges on us to help pay for city services,” said Funfest President Judiann McGrogan. “We understand that the city is in a bad financial situation but so are we.”

The topic strayed off course as council members Cabell and Jack Mundie began fighting each other.

“And you are getting to be a liability to the city! You are getting to be a liability to the city,” yelled Cabell, who was silenced by Council President Jim Perry, who told her: “You`re embarrassing yourself.”

Council and Funfest members did agree that the list of charges was confusing.

Council voted to wait to make a decision on the proposed so it could meet with Funfest members and city leaders to clarify how the fees would be paid.

Funfest will be held the weekend of September 8, and members said they asked to have a meeting after it`s over.

Council said they hope to re-visit this ordinance in January.