Former city staff’s handling of Pizza Fest panned
Park Ridge City Hall.
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:11AM
PARK RIDGE — Some of Park Ridge’s elected officials are placing blame on former staff members for what they believe was a communication failure regarding the size and extent of an upcoming food festival.
Organizers of the upcoming Park Ridge Pizza Fest told the City Council on Aug. 27 that they began discussing their plans with city staff in April, but Mayor David Schmidt said he only learned just recently that the event would occur over two days, require the closure of Summit Avenue between Touhy and Prospect and include off-duty Chicago police officers providing private security.
“I gotta say, this caught me a little by surprise because this is a fairly large event,” Schmidt told representatives of the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce and Special Events Management, the groups heading up the Sept. 7-8 festival. “We’re talking about street closures and gates and admissions and outside security personnel. I didn’t know anything about this.”
Schmidt, who according to Chamber of Commerce Director Gail Haller had already agreed to volunteer during the fest, said he believed it would be smaller in scale and a one-day activity like the Chamber’s First Fridays events, which are held once each month.
“I think this is something staff should have told us about much sooner so it’s not catching us by surprise so close to the event,” Schmidt said.
Pizza Fest, which will feature pizza establishments and on-stage entertainment, is similar to the annual Taste of Park Ridge food festival in Uptown. Earlier this year Taste of Park Ridge, Inc. was required to have a contract drawn up and approved by the City Council before organization of the festival could begin. The Chamber of Commerce and Special Events Management have not had the same requirement placed upon them for Pizza Fest.
Second Ward Alderman Rich DiPietro called upon the City Council to discuss creating a new policy related to community events or broadening an existing council policy statement about economic incentive agreements.
“It’s only fair that since we had a contract with the Taste of Park Ridge we would have a contract with the Chamber of Commerce. We don’t,” DiPietro said.
The Chamber of Commerce has agreed to reimburse the city for expenses it incurs related to police and fire protection, and the use of Public Works Department personnel. That was a point of contention early on between the city and organizers of the Taste of Park Ridge, though an agreement was eventually reached.
Saying he was “flabbergasted by the size and magnitude” of Pizza Fest, 5th Ward Alderman Dan Knight blamed the City Council’s lack of notification on former city manager Jim Hock, whose job was terminated by the council in May, and former acting city manager Juliana Maller, who left the city Aug. 11 for a position with the village of Hanover Park.
“If the former city manager or former acting city manager were still here and this occurred, I might be the first one moving for their dismissal,” Knight said. “This is a significant event and for us to find out about it the way we did was just wrong.”
Fourth Ward Alderman Sal Raspanti agreed.
“The blame should be squarely on staff,” he said.