Council President Jeffrey Turco remained firmly behind his idea to have a Fiesta Shows carnival at Ingleside Park despite the vehement objections expressed by abutters of the park at a Council meeting Tuesday night.
Winthrop Parks and Recreation Department is the sponsor of the carnival that begins tonight (Thursday) and continues through Sunday night. The department will receive a percentage of the profits from the event and is guaranteed a minimum of $4,000.
“In a town that is cash strapped and needs to look for creative ways to raise money, this carnival was an opportunity for four days to bring in a fun activity for the kids and families in this community while at the same time helping the Parks and Recreation program to expand its offerings,” said Turco.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the carnival itself and the lack of notification from the town about the event. Some cited a town bylaw that requires a joint public hearing of the licensing authority and the department on the application for a permit at least one month before the event.
But Turco said the town manager [James McKenna] received a legal opinion from its town counsel [Kopelman and Paige] Wednesday that “the town is not required, based on the practice, to pull a permit.”
“Where the town is the sponsor of the event, the legal opinion reaffirms what the town manager and I have surmised – that the town does not pull permits for its own sponsored events,” said Turco.
Councilor Jeanne Maggio was clearly the most vehement in her opposition to the way the matter was handled.
“I think we’re finding a way to skirt the law,” said Maggio. “I respect Councilor Boncore’s interpretation of the bylaw and the Recreation Department is a department of the town, but it’s an entirely different type of event that Sean [Driscoll] has run in the past. This is totally different.
“If we go through with this, we are saying to the townspeople that when it comes to something to do with the town, we will find a way to skirt the law or to just interpret it so that it works for us. And I think that sends a very bad message to this town. I don’t think we should do this carnival.”
Both Maggio and Councilor Nicholas DelVento made motions seeking Council votes on policy matters relating to town ordinances and the carnival, but Turco ruled procedurally that the votes could not be taken.
Turco said Wednesday he wasn’t pleased with Maggio’s choice of words in expressing her opposition.
“If Councilor Maggio had an opportunity to reconsider her words, I think she probably would have,” said Turco. “She was playing to crowd as opposed to trying to be a fair receiver and arbiter of information.”
Turco said the carnival is “no different” than Octoberfest, an annual event held in the fall at Ingleside Park that is hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department.
“This is no different than Octoberfest or any other event that Parks and Recreation organizes in town,” said Turco. “I’m not downplaying the abutters who have their legitimate concerns, but we can’t pick and choose which events we want to demand a public hearing for.”
The Council president said he was confident that the Winthrop Police and Fire Department would provide excellent security and safety at the event.
“Our chief, Terence Delehanty, is taking the proper steps to make sure that all public safety issues are addressed,” said Turco. “Chief Paul Flanagan said a member of our fire department will be present to make sure that everything is being done up to the proper standards.”
Despite Turco’s prediction that the event will be a success, residents were not pleased with the event’s planning process and lack of advanced notice.
“They really snuck this by us,” said Mark Desmond after the meeting. “It’s very unfair to the abutters of the property itself. We were not advised at all about it, so it’s not fair to us.”
Peter Gill had addressed the carnival issue during the council’s discussion and in the public speaking portion of the meeting.
“I respectfully disagree with President Turco’s interpretation that this is no different than the [Parks and Recreation’s] Octoberfest [event],” said Gill. “Forty-eight hours notice to spring it on the town is totally inappropriate. We should try to prevent the situation like happened today with the Council. In the future it should be further investigated and better published before it become a last-minute issue.”