It will be first-come, first-served for groups wanting to hold fundraisers in LaGrange after the LaGrange Town Council took action Monday evening on the contentious subject.
Town Clerk-Treasurer Mike Rowlison told the council that he is already getting calls from groups that want to hold the chicken barbeque fundraisers this year. The council voted to have Rowlison sign up groups for off-site fundraising, and locate them at one of three locations in town.
Groups that call to sign up will be assigned to the Town Hall, the LaGrange County Courthouse, or Schlemmer’s Hardware, based on the order that they call in. The first group will get the town hall, the second the courthouse, third Schlemmer’s, and will continue to rotate. Groups will be given the next available weekend, with only one group per weekend – on either Friday or Saturday. There will be no fees to hold the fundraisers.
Groups will not be able to request a specific location or date, but rather get the next date and location on rotation.
The policy does not apply to any fundraisers held on private property. Fundraisers on private property, such as at churches or other businesses, can be held whenever they wish and as often as they would like.
Discussion prior to the vote centered around how much the fundraisers have affected businesses in downtown LaGrange, as well as safety issues.
Area restaurants have been concerned with the fundraisers taking away business, even having people stand near their establishments with signs advertising the fundraiser. They also point out that the fundraisers have an unfair advantage in that they do not have utility payments, taxes and other costs.
Others contend that the fundraisers bring business to the downtown area and that the affect on downtown restaurants is minimal.
Town Council President Mark Eagleson suggested that the groups consider an option that was brought up previously, having the groups and restaurants work together in fundraisers, similar to what Miller’s Super Valu does for groups. That, Eagleson said, would be a win-win solution. Restaurants have already said they would be willing to participate in those events, “We just have to let the clubs and organizations know that option is out there,” Eagleson stated.
Concern over how moving the fundraisers away from the courthouse would hurt their sales was also a primary point of discussion Monday. Merv King, owner of King’s Barbeque that works with many of the fundraisers, told the council that he was okay setting up anywhere in the town. “I don’t want to hurt other businesses,” he added.
Council member Ray Hoover, who was the lone dissenting vote on the policy, felt that the town would “regulate ourselves into an unfriendly town.” He added “I can’t believe that they (downtown restaurants) are losing that much business.”