Council nixes new 5K events

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

The Rotary Club of Naperville Freedom 5K and the Scullen Sprint 5K will have to wait at least a year for their chance to join the city’s lineup of charity races.

In a rare split vote, City Council members this week declined to bend the rules and let the two groups host the fundraiser runs after both missed the December deadline for being added to the city’s annual special events calendar. Under council rules, the nays in the 4-4 vote prevailed.

The Rotary event had been envisioned in mid-May, while the Scullen run was being planned for late September.

Some council members were comfortable with making the exception, noting that the Rotary’s Jan. 21 pitch for an inaugural race on the city’s north end came in good faith, albeit six weeks past the council’s decision to close the 2014 calendar. The Scullen run request also came in after the door was closed on new major events this year, which entail use of city services and staff time.

Officials sympathized with the organizations, while acknowledging the purpose and value of the cutoff.

“I believe in deadlines,” said Council member Bob Fieseler, a patent attorney. “In my business, deadlines can be killers. You can miss a patent date and lots of money is at stake. But there’s also the work that I think (Rotary) has done in bringing this to us.”

Some council members were leery of a precedent they might set in allowing the requests.

“I think we’re full,” said Councilman Paul Hinterlong, who was serving as mayor pro tem in Mayor A. George Pradel’s absence. “If we open it back up, how do we deny anybody that comes a month from now, two months from now, and wants to have an event? We can’t say no.”

Council member Doug Krause said deadlines need to be enforced, pointing out that drivers and taxpayers have to respect deadlines for renewing licenses and filing returns.

“At some point you have to have a cutoff in order for the city to look at their resources to be sure we’re providing services,” Krause said. “At what point do you say, ‘staff doesn’t have time to do this?’”

Councilman Steve Chirico urged giving the idea a look nonetheless, emphasizing that the Rotary, unlike other organizers of major events, expected to cover the entire expense of the city services.

“I think the event should be looked at on its own,” Chirico said.

Council member Dave Wentz agreed the additional runs deserved consideration.

“We are looking at them on a case-by-case basis to see if they can actually follow through, if they could be a benefit to our community,” Wentz said, noting that the north-end business owners were backing the Rotary run and had committed to paying most of the event cost.

Councilman Grant Wehrli, calling himself “a rules-and-process guy,” said he had to stand firm on the existing deadline.

“If (the Rotary race) was later in the year and they had just missed the window, I get that, I want to be flexible,” Wehrli said. “But right now I look at this, and I can’t justify putting the residents through this on short notice.”

Support for reopening the calendar came from council members Judith Brodhead, Chirico, Wentz and Fieseler. Those who voted against the proposal were Joe McElroy, Krause, Hinterlong and Wehrli.

Hinterlong was among those who acknowledged the decision was difficult.

“Our staff is working hard. I believe them when they say we’re full,” he said. “There’s something happening in this town every weekend, and that’s a good problem to have.”