Organizers of the RunTough for ChadTough event planned for Oct. 3 received Saline City Council’s permission to use city streets and services. When it appeared city council was going to stop short of approving a request to waive more than $500 in associated city costs, Mayor Pro-Tem David Rhoads volunteered to pay any costs accrued by the city. Mayor Brian Marl also pledged to help cover those costs.
The RunTough for ChadTough event includes a one-mile, 5K and 10K run. Proceeds from the event, which begins at Harvest Elementary School in Pittsfield Township, will benefit the ChadTough foundation founded by Tammi and Jason Carr to fund research and raise awareness for pediatric brain turmors – especially Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. The Carrs’ son, Chad, was diagnosed last year with DIPG and, days later, spent his fourth birthday in the Coach Carr Unit of Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Chad is the grandson of former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr.
The Saline community has rallied around the Carr family, as have fans of Michigan football around the country.
Monday night, supporters of the ChadTough Foundation requested city council approve the closure of one lane of Industrial drive during the event. Supporters also asked city council to waive about $520 in costs associated the event. The city estimated up to $300 to pay for officers to direct traffic and $200 to pay workers to pick up and deliver traffic cones.
Although the ChadTough cause has widespread community support, city council didn’t support waiving the fees. A new community event process asks event organizers to apply ahead of time for consideration of waiver of fees. Events for 2015 were reviewed in November of 2014. In addition, council was worried about fairness. Last year, city council required Epic Races to pay for police and DPW services. In her memo to council, Clerk Terri Royal wrote that city staff recommended not waiving associated fees because it “was not a community event” but a fundraiser for a specific cause.
Several ChadTough supporters asked for council’s support during the public comment portion of the meeting.
After hearing from Police Chief Larry Hrinik and DPW Director Jeff Fordice about the associated costs, Clerk Royal outlined the position stated in her memo.
Councilor Dean Girbach said it was his understanding, based on comments made by the city attorney, that it would be inappropriate for the city to waive fees for an event raising funds for a private organization. Mayor Marl said he didn’t remember that point.
Clerk Royal noted the $520 cost was an estimate on the high side. Police Chief Hrinik said the SPD’s $320 cost was based on overtime charges and could be reduced to as little as $70 if reserves worked the event. Councilor Terri Sibo-Koenig asked if the DPW’s costs could be reduced if volunteers picked up and dropped off the cones. DPW Jeff Fordice said it was possible.
Tammi Carr told council she understood if the city could not waive fees. She asked if the city might consider being a sponsor of the event. Where last year’s event was put on by friends in support of the Carr family, this year’s event is benefiting the ChadTough Foundation.
“We have very good support already. We have over 350 people registered and paid to run and walk. We expect the number to be well over 500 by the time the event starts Oct. 3,” Carr said. “I understand if there are complications. We really appreciate all the support the City of Saline and the community has given us.”
Mayor Marl thanked Carr for her comments and suggested a couple of options to proceed. He said he thought council could approve the use of the city streets at the table and then investigate whether or not the city waive costs for events benefiting private organizations. He also wanted to investigate whether or not the city could legally sponsor the event.
But before council went far down that road, Mayor Pro-Tem Rhoads offered to pay the city’s costs.
“I understand the concern about the precedent so I will offer to pay the fees,” Rhoads said.
Marl said he’d be happy to join Rhoads in paying any of the fees, but said he’d like to have the policy clarified.
Councilor Jim Roth said the city has a deadline for any applicants who want their fees waived. Roth asked if the event organizers applied before the deadline. Clerk Royal said organizers weren’t sure the event was going to come into the city and did not apply before the deadline.
Roth then questioned how much the event benefits city taxpayers.
“Think of the city taxpayers. I’m not sure this is a prudent way of spending the tax money they are paying, by sponsoring such events,” Roth said. “The people here, if they mention where they are from, they are from Pittsfield Township. I think it’s not fair for the Saline taxpayer to sponsor or write-off the payment for all these activities when residents outside of Saline are using it. If they use our facilities, I think they should pay for them.”
Following Roth’s comment, Marl asked Rhoads if he was prepared to make a motion. Rhoads motioned to approve the use of the road but not approve waiving of the fees.
Mayor Marl said he believed the event would benefit a noble and worthy cause.
One of the ChadTough supporters politely took issue with portions of Roth’s comments. She said she understood the concern about taxes.
“Probably more than half of the people coming to the race are from Saline. All of our kids attend Saline schools. We spend a lot of time in Saline even though we live in Pittsfield Township,” she said. “Our community has rallied around this family so much and they love this family. This community has come together because of it. This event is another way for this community to come together. That’s why we are here. We want to help not only Chad, but every child impacted by this terrible condition.”
Council voted 7-0 to approve Rhoads’ motion.