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City reviews parade permits

Havre Mayor Bob Rice is working to make certain the procedure for obtaining parade permits - including what is needed for liability insurance - is perfectly clear.

"I just wanted to make sure all the players were on the same page," Rice said.

After questions were raised last year about what insurance covered whom during special events, the city considered requiring people who apply for special events permits to buy liability coverage that would include coverage for the city. The city is preparing an ordinance for City Council review that details procedures for applying for special events permits, including a requirement to buy liability coverage for Havre.

However, Rice said today he thinks that provision isn't necessary. The draft, sent to the city by its attorneys on Aug. 15, was written before the city received more information from the state, he said.

Rice raised the question about the city's responsibilities and the Montana Department of Transportation's responsibilities at a quarterly meeting with MDT on Jan. 14.

Dave Hand, MDT Havre maintenance chief, said at the meeting that MDT's responsibility would be to review the plan of traffic control when the city approves a parade permit, with most everything else up to the city and the organizers.

"We shouldn't be in the parade business," he said.

MDT Great Falls District administrator Mick Johnson said in an interview that the department will review the route and planned detours to ensure there isn't a safety problem for spectators, participants and people not involved in the parade.

Any liability issues would be the responsibility of the entity issuing the permit, he said.

Bob Worthington, chief executive officer of the Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, said the policy Havre gets through the authority would cover the city for any event held on public property.

It would not cover any other organizations involved in organizing events or who applied for permits, he said.

Worthington said MMIA encourages communities it covers to require permits to hold events, and to encourage the organizations applying for permits to have insurance coverage.

Organizers of a parade and other activities on July Fourth didn't provide any liability insurance. However, the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce bought a liability policy to cover the chamber for Festival Days events.

Chamber executive director Debbie Vandeberg said the chamber spent more than $1,000 to cover events during the 2003 Festival Days.

"We always get insurance," she said.

Chuck Wimmer, president of the chamber, said the insurance cost cuts into funds that could be used for holding events, but is a necessary expense.

"I just don't know how we're going to get out from under it," he said. "There's a huge liability issue there."

Rice said another question is what route the parades should take. The Independence Day parade ran along Fifth Avenue.

The 2003 Festival Days parade ran down Fifth Avenue, then west along First Street until it turned north into a parking lot at Second Avenue. In recent years, the parade had turned north from First Street onto Third Avenue.

Vandeberg said she doesn't know what route the Chamber will prefer for the 2004 Festival Days parade. Every route has its own advantages and disadvantages, she said.

"It's really a coin toss which way we go," she said, adding that the chamber works with the city and state to keep from impeding traffic.


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