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BBQ fest cost city $142,067

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

The city's annual contributions to Barbecue on the River come in the form of labor, trash removal and police presence, and Wednesday the city provided for the first time a cost breakdown of those services.

Department heads contributed to a report showing the city gave the festival $142,067 in 2013. The largest part of that money, $108,905, came from public works projects associated with the three-day event. An additional $24,440 came out of the parks department's budget, while the remainder covered police, fire and public information services.

The eight-page spreadsheet was compiled and produced at the request of City Manager Jeff Pederson. Most of the expenses are associated with city personnel who work for the festival on city time.  There are additional things city employees do - like hanging festival banners, collecting trash, providing security and renting fencing or portable restrooms â “ that  festival organizers are not charged for. Mayor Gayle Kaler said she believes the money is well spent.

"People love the festival, and they love a lot of other events that require city support," Kaler said. "We support marathons and 5K runs, the quilt show, and the farmers market. They're things that make the quality of life here better."

Barbecue on the River organizers had no comment on the document because they had not had a chance to review it Wednesday.

"This (the expense report) has nothing to do with the value the city sees in the festival," Pederson said. "The festival isn't in question. The review concerns efficiency and whether it affects the city's services elsewhere."

This is the first compilation of finances the city has done on the event, Pederson said. 

"It's not unusual for a city to provide services for events like this," Commissioner Sandra Wilson said. "I really believe the citizens enjoy these activities and want them to continue."

In contrast, the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival costs the city about $55,000 in in-kind city services per year. That festival is smaller in size but lasts one day longer. The American Quilter's Society's annual Quilt Show is much larger, but city expenses are thought to be relatively low because the event is staffed primarily by AQS volunteers. The city did not provide an expense figure for the quilt show.  

"It's a pretty breathtaking number, but 19 years ago (Barbecue on the River) was far less," Commissioner Allan Rhodes said. "As the festival grew, the number grew. The city always reviews its budgets and looks at things to make sure we're getting the most for our dollar."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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