County gives PDP 2 years to manage plaza events

PRESCOTT – Yavapai County supervisors gave a new two-year contract to the Prescott Downtown Partnership Wednesday to manage courthouse plaza events.

Since the Prescott Downtown Partnership (PDP) started managing the events last year, major event sponsors have complained that it's a conflict of interest because the PDP members are downtown business owners who sometimes complain about how the events take away customers and parking spaces.

However, the supervisors concluded Monday that they like having a middleman to oversee all the events on the popular Prescott plaza, and gave the PDP a two-year contract and $30,000-per-year payment.

"We need to give it a chance, to see how it works out," Supervisor John Olsen said.

The PDP management creates an opportunity for everyone to work together, business owner Kendall Jaspers said.

Chamber Director David Sommer praised PDP's work so far, but Jackie Breitenbach said she sees no need for a middleman.

The PDP believes it reached a majority consensus on ordinance changes and fee increases after three meetings with event sponsors, former PDP president Jean Noel said.

The plaza events are good for the community and businesses, Tommy Meredith said.

"If the spirit of cooperation is not established, we're all going to lose," Meredith said.

Only one person, Sue Willoughby, complained Wednesday about the potential for a PDP conflict of interest, comparing it to "putting the fox in charge of the hen house." She said sponsors are afraid to complain, fearing retaliation on the part of the PDP.

The supervisors agreed to limit the PDP to sponsoring only one of the eight major annual plaza events, to ease concerns that the PDP is trying to take over as many events as it can.

It's also a conflict of interest for Supervisor Gheral Brownlow to be on the PDP board, Willoughby said.

Brownlow responded that he's more like a county government liaison to the PDP. He denied allegations that he is trying to put a stop to plaza events. He explained how he urged fellow board members to cut out vendor booths in front of the war memorial, on the sidewalk history timeline to reduce its wear and tear, and on the south side of the plaza to leave room for picnics and such.

"Otherwise, I have not tried to shut those shows down," Brownlow said.

The supervisors also made several changes to the ordinance governing the plaza events, mostly to improve its organization and clarity, and increased event fees to help cover management, insurance and clean-up costs.

Vendor booth fees will increase by $2, and the county's event administration fee will increase from $30 to $50 as of Jan. 1. Food concessionaire fees also will increase. No one voiced objections to the fee increases Wednesday.

Sometime later this year, the supervisors will consider more PDP ordinance change proposals aimed at resolving parking conflicts and other issues.