Columbia County officials Tuesday are expected to debate a proposed ordinance regulating fundraiser races that block county streets.
The ordinance might be somewhat streamlined, however, from its original proposal after county officials questioned the amount of red tape involved.
The five-page application for the proposed permit for “road races, parades or public assemblies that would burden the public properties and roadways in Columbia County” seems overly bureaucratic, said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, as is the requirement that race organizers apply 45 days in advance.
Officials discussed the rules during a recent Community and Emergency Services Committee meeting, and ultimately decided to send it to Tuesday’s commission meeting for debate.
“I just hope there’s some way to condense it so that we don’t get into more delays,” Cross said. “I’m concerned about the time; 45 days to me seems like a long time.”
The number of departments having to sign off on the applications troubled Cross, too.
“We’ve got too many regulations, as far as I’m concerned, on everything,” Cross said. “I just hate to create another layer here. I think we need something... but I wish we could just make it really simple.”
County Administrator Scott Johnson said the procedures formalize what the county already follows, but puts in writing a plan to help keep the county from scrambling to accommodate last-minute requests for road closures.
“It’s not an attempt to hinder or create more bureaucracy,” Johnson said. “It’s a method for us to know the cost that’s going to be involved,” and to make sure the race pays for those costs rather than taxpayers.
One of the major events likely to be affected is the annual Jingle Jam 10K that shuts down portions of streets near Evans Towne Center Park.
That wouldn’t be a problem, said Goldei Limbaugh, Jingle Jam’s organizer.
“We already work with the county now,” she said, adding that their large, active board and volunteers are able to handle any new requirements.
What it’s likely to curb are smaller, less-organized races, she said – and county officials agree.
“We’re not trying to stop anybody,” said Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Director Matt Schlachter, who oversees the traffic staffers who approve the routes. “We just want to be notified.”
For Jingle Jam, Limbaugh said, the organizers expect to pay any costs associated with keeping the route safe for participants.
“One thing we learned in Boston, safety is No. 1,” Limbaugh said. “If I can keep my spectators safe, if I can keep my volunteers safe, if I can keep my runners safe, that’s all that matters.”