City Council Outraged Over Charging Local Nonprofit Organizations
New Bedford City Councilors didn't hold back from expressing their outrage and disbelief Thursday evening that the city anticipates to collect fees from local nonprofit organizations.
Earlier this year, word began to circulate that the city would begin charging fees to groups that utilized city property for their events. The matter was quickly brought up at a previous council meeting but then just as quickly dropped.
Councilor at Large Brian Gomes said he was in contact with the Mayor's Office after that initial discussion, but there was no further discussion over the proposed fees.
"There was supposed to be a meeting held with the Mayor's Office, which I was never contacted about, then all of the sudden this week they're sending out these letters and implementing fees on these people unexpectedly, no just cause," said Gomes.
After a half hour of discussion, it was decided the council would invite representatives from the Mayor's Office and parks department to discuss the fees at a future meeting of the Committee on Appointments and Briefings.
Council President Linda Morad also filed a related motion that the city refrain from charging any fees until that meeting is held.
"This says cease and desist until we can all sit down and it also asks our council attorney to tell us what our legal ability is to stop or to administer fees in the city of New Bedford," Morad said.
Fees would be paid by groups that host festivals, parades, fundraisers and other events including the veterans that volunteer at the Fort Taber Military Museum.
Ward 1 Councilor and U.S. Navy veteran Jim Oliveira said he he "takes offense" charging veterans for services.
"We've given up so much over time," he said.
"I'm embarrassed to charge organizations like this," said Ward 2 Councilor Steve Martins. "We're driving them out of New Bedford."
Councilors agreed that it made sense to charge out-of-town or for-profit groups holding events in the city, but nickle and diming local charitable groups is just too much.
"We can govern them, watch them, regulate them but to charge them to do volunteer work in unconscionable," said Ward 3 Councilor Henry Bousquet.
Mayor Jon Mitchell has defended the fees, noting the city offers up to an 80% reduced rate to local groups.
Councilors and the Mayor also took to social media shortly after the discussions in the council chambers.