Park charges organizer fee for school supply giveaway - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Park charges organizer fee for school supply giveaway

By David Spunt - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Every year, a Baton Rouge man spends money on school supplies for children who need them to start the new school year right. He usually hands out the supplies at North Street Park, but this year the Recreation and Park Commission for East Baton Rouge Parish (BREC) wants to charge him hundreds of dollars to do so.

For the past five years, Bennie Stewart has passed out everything from pens and pencils to notebooks and paper during the last weekend in July. He spends over $1,000 to purchase the goods. Hundreds of underprivileged kids line up to get what they need before classes start.

As he was preparing for this year's giveaway, Stewart was told he had to pay BREC $285. Reportedly, $250 of it is a refundable security deposit. The fee is part of BREC's new plan to handle park events. Metro Councilwoman Denise Marcelle is taking Stewart's concerns to BREC. She calls it ridiculous that BREC would charge for what she calls charity.

"This is not a birthday party," Marcelle explained. "This is not a celebration for Bennie. This is for the kids of this community."

BREC officials said the new fees were put in place after police officers asked them to require a permit for large events due to safety concerns.

"We're excited that he wants to do it, but there are public safety issues with service of food and bringing a large group that's expected," said Kristi Williams, BREC communications director. "We have to take into account parking and traffic congestion."

BREC requires a 45-day advance notice of park usage for an event. Stewart indicted on his application he would be serving food and BREC requires him to touch base with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He must also provide his own insurance coverage and arrange for security.

No other parishes in the metro area follow the same policy, but many other cities nationwide have similar ones.

Click here for more about BREC

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