Last month, Naperville City Council members closed the door on new community-wide events in the city this year. This month, they’re thinking about opening it a crack.
Representatives of the Rotary Club of Naperville came before the group Tuesday night, asking for permission to host a 5-kilometer run/walk on May 18 in the Freedom Commons area on the city’s northeast side.
Rachel Ossyra, cochair of the chapter’s international committee that develops sustainable projects, said proceeds from the envisioned 1,000-participant Freedom 5K would aid humanitarian projects in Nigeria and India.
“We know that Naperville is truly an international city, with people from all over the world who work together to build a great community that really cares about people,” said Ossyra, who also is Naperville Township’s supervisor.
While some of the council members want to stand firm on their vote last month to close the special-events calendar for this year, others are open to the possibility that there’s room for Rotary, and two more runs.
City Clerk Pam Lafeber, one of the staff members who manage planning for the city’s special events, said two local groups already have been declined clearance for 5Ks in 2014 and are on a waiting list for next year’s schedule. The city limits major special events — defined as those requiring street closures, support from city staff, or both — in an effort to avoid stretching city services too thinly, and to accommodate the wishes of residents near the activities, some of whom have complained about having trouble getting into and out of their neighborhoods during big events.
“The time expended preparing for and executing services to special events impedes core city services, such as traffic sign repairs, downtown and parking facilities maintenance, and public safety coverage,” Special Events Coordinator Jennifer Runestad wrote in a council memo last month.
Those matters appeared not to be deal breakers for some council members willing to consider Rotary’s request, along with the two wait-listed runs.
Council member Steve Chirico said sometimes a last-minute event is completely acceptable, noting the memorial run that took place in the city just after last April’s Boston Marathon bombings.
“I don’t think we should just be closing it off, saying that’s it,” Chirico said.
Some said they liked that the race site, unlike most events of its kind in the city, is not near the Riverwalk or on the city’s south end.
“To me, that’s the big difference between this and many other things that come down the pike,” Councilman Joe McElroy said.
The officials agreed that the two groups that also want to host 5K races, who were not named, should have equal consideration to be added to this year’s calendar.
“If you’re going to do something for (Rotary), you have to do something for the other two,” Councilman Doug Krause said.
Council member Grant Wehrli did not support reopening the door for events, saying groups shouldn’t be permitted to “short-circuit” the application process. And Councilman Paul Hinterlong agreed the closing date should stand.
“If you missed the bus, you missed the bus. Come back next year and go through the process,” Hinterlong said.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead pointed out that the extra burden of new events falls on staff members, and asked that they come back to the council with an assessment of the likely impact of the three additional races. That report is expected at the council’s Feb. 18 meeting.
Lafeber said the route for Rotary’s 5K, which is relatively simple, raised some concerns among staff because it has race participants crossing Washington Street and Diehl Road. And City Manager Doug Krieger said a report for the council will call for looking at the logistics for all three races, including traffic studies.
“It’s not just one person with a spreadsheet saying, ‘This it how it works out,’” Krieger said. “It’s a fairly lengthy process.”