In Fulton, the weekend after the Fourth of July is typically reserved for the Maple Lawn Street Festival.
The festival, which has been an annual event for more than a decade, showcases local talent, food and fireworks. This year, however, the festival will not occur because of high fees charged by the county for the first time, an organizer said in a memo sent last month to nearby residents.
The Howard County Police Department sent organizers an invoice last month for $19,443, the amount estimated to pay officers to assist with traffic direction, parking enforcement and security. The amount charged by the county was a first for the festival and required organizers to cancel the event because it became cost prohibitive, said Michael Greenebaum, president of Greenebaum Enterprises, a Baltimore-based real estate and venture capital firm that helped organize the festival.
In March 2018, Howard lawmakers overhauled the way in which fees were charged to festivals because of the increasing costs to the county. Officials said the reason for the overhaul was the increasing cost burdening the police department.
In 2015, police received 169 requests for police to assist with special events, which cost the county $423,253, according to testimony submitted by police department officials. The next year, the number of requests increased to 183 and resulted in $539,312 and, in 2017, 226 requests resulted in $609,534. Under former County Executive Allan Kittleman, the County Council voted unanimously to amend the county code to change the fee schedule.
Since January, the county has discounted events put on by nonprofits by 50% if fees were estimated to be more than $1,500. They are waived completely if the event costs less. For-profit organizations, like the Maple Lawn Street Festival, are expected to pay the entirety of the fee. County-sponsored events, like the Fourth of July fireworks event at the Columbia Lakefront, typically have fees waived, a police spokesman said.
The police department said it notified festival organizers of the change, but David Nevins, a spokesman for the festival, said, “No one had any idea the amount would be nearly $20,000.”
Greenebaum Enterprises is registered as a for-profit business and has donated thousands of dollars to support the festival for the community, Nevins said.
“Going forward, [organizers] are actively going to explore alternative structures, including a not-for-profit festival designation, and ongoing discussions with the county government to reduce the policing costs to a much more manageable level,” Nevins said.