The Littleton Block Party may return in 2020, thanks in part to reduced special event fees from South Metro Fire Rescue.
Organizer Greg Reinke canceled the annual June bash in 2019, blaming increased event fees and tighter regulations from South Metro, which took over firefighting duties for Littleton at the end of 2018.
Now, with some of the fees reduced, Reinke says he's hopeful he can bring back the party that many call the unofficial start of summer in Littleton — even if there are still some details to be hammered out.
“There's still the matter of the pyrotechnics fee,” Reinke said. The Block Party typically features two fireworks shows. “That could be a show stopper. Some people have told me, `Well, just don't do the fireworks shows.' But that would be like going to Disneyland if the rides were all closed.”
Last year's permits topped $1,600 — $1,123 for the fireworks permit and $483 for a special event permit, or more than 10 times the $150 Reinke used to pay Littleton Fire Rescue.
Though other members of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, of which Reinke is president, offered to pay the difference, Reinke canceled the show, saying he was afraid costs would keep climbing.
The new fee schedule reduces the special event permit fee to $260, and a fee schedule on South Metro's website lists the pyrotechnics fee as $1,079.
A reduction of less than $300 from last year might not seem like much, but it helps, Reinke said, though he's still hoping South Metro will work with him on the pyrotechnics fee.
The pyrotechnics fee is likely to stand for the time being, said South Metro fire marshal Anthony Valdez.
“That's not part of our new fee schedule, though it will be part of the grander fee schedule review we're undergoing right now,” Valdez said.
The pyrotechnics fee covers a plan review, pre-event inspection, oversight during the display, the cost to keep a firetruck on standby and a post-event inspection, Valdez said in 2019.
The new fee schedule, which waives fees for events with less than 150 attendees and tops out at $260 for events with more than 1,000 attendees, came after consultation with community stakeholders and is designed to ensure local events can succeed, Valdez said.
“Our board's philosophy is our fees should be as close to full cost recovery as possible,” Valdez said. “That includes salary of those performing services, vehicles, fuel, technology and so forth. With these new event fees, we're only at partial cost recovery, but we want to make sure we're partnering with the community to meet their needs.”
There were other problems with last year's Block Party: Reinke chafed at South Metro's stricter enforcement of fire codes, including requiring a 20-foot-wide right-of-way down Main Street, which Reinke said would have forced him to eliminate some of the stages used by bands and performers.
Reinke said he's hopeful he and South Metro can work together this year to lay out the festival.
“I don't think that's an issue anymore,” Reinke said.
Valdez said South Metro is bound to enforce city code.
“We don't have flexibility as to that enforcement, but there are lots of ways to be creative to allow activities to occur,” Valdez said.
Reinke also complained in 2019 that the City of Littleton was enforcing excessive requirements for portable toilets and handwashing stations, though he said the city eventually backed off. City of Littleton spokeswoman Kelli Narde said last year that the initial toilet requirement was an automatic response to Reinke's initial permit filing, which estimated far higher attendance than the 6,000 to 8,000 people who typically attend.
Reinke was also bogged down by giving depositions in a lawsuit with a roofing company over completion of the roof of his shop, Reinke Bros., in 2019. Reinke lost the lawsuit over the summer, and the suit is now in appeals.
Reinke said in 2019 that he and his crew got a late start on permitting the event and had trouble communicating with South Metro. This year he's set an earlier deadline, and already attended a meeting with South Metro and other local event planners, which he called productive.
“It was a wonderful meeting, and now we both understand where we're coming from,” Reinke said. “I have high hopes everything will be fine. When the Block Party happens, look out, because it'll knock your socks off.”
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