BREMERTON — For years, hosting a block party in Bremerton has put its organizer back by about $500 “even before the first hot dog is paid for,” Richard Huddy says.
The Bremerton city councilman had hoped to throw a block party this summer in the city’s Rainier District, an organized block watch area he helped found that spans Callow to Naval avenues and 11th to 15th streets. But he got sticker shock when applying for a permit.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” he said of the cost.
The Bremerton City Council last week slashed the block party fee to just $25, if the applicant agrees to hold the city harmless and shoulder the liability should damage or injuries occur in the street.
The proposal passed with the thinnest of margins, as several council members wondered if it had undergone sufficient vetting. Councilman Dino Davis raised concerns about potential litigation, noting the city’s insurance coverage doesn’t kick in until the first $500,000 is paid.
“It’s not just the exposure of the city,” Davis added. “Whoever signs their name on the (block party) permit is on the hook … For as much as someone can sue for.”
Davis, along with councilwomen Leslie Daugs and Pat Sullivan, supported kicking the proposal to a council committee to give it more time to be crafted. While all three backed making block parties easier to organize, “I don’t support rushing this through the council,” Sullivan said.
Under the old rules, charges included $100 for a special event permit, another $100 to close a street and roughly $250 to $350 for liability insurance. Huddy proposed following what Kirkland and other Washington cities have done: Charging just $25 if the applicant is willing to sign a form holding the city harmless in the event of an injury or other liability.
Council President Eric Younger acknowledged that ideally, the proposal should’ve worked its way through a council committee first. But they don’t have to, and he said Huddy had mentioned several times during recent council meetings that he’d been working with City Attorney Roger Lubovich to change the policy.
Younger asked Lubovich to tweak the ordinance to say that block parties are for local residents nearby, and not for an event in which outside attendance is encouraged. (That would trigger the “special events” permit requiring insurance and a greater fee.)
When other council members criticized the proposed changes, Huddy asked when the council would “start looking out for” city residents.
“When are we going to stop seeing boogeymen behind every bush?” Huddy asked.
The councilman added a shot at Davis and Daugs, who had previously supported a “welcoming city” resolution affirming that city police officers do not question residents about their immigration status.
Huddy questioned whether they opposed the block party proposal “because you didn’t like the outcome of the welcoming resolution.” The council was unable to reach agreement on wording of a welcoming resolution.