When it comes to tranquil peaceful locations in Howell it is hard to beat . Now the council and administration are working to make the pavilion at the park easier for people to use for any number of events.
The idea was brought up by Councilman Robert Nicastro at a recent meeting and the discussion continued Tuesday night as the parameters of the changes are hammered out by the council and administration. Nicastro said he had been approached by residents about possibly lowering the fees to make the pavilion more affordable.
Nicastro said under the current setup the cost to rent the pavilion is $400 for four hours. The tentative proposal would slash that to $200 for five hours. The councilman said he hoped that would attract more people to use the facility. "It's one of our gems in Howell," he said. "We want people to use it so we think by lowering the prices this will be beneficial to everyone."
The new proposal also lowers the charges for non profits and other businesses who might be interested in using the facility. Nicastro said groups like the Boy Scouts would be able to use the pavilion for a significantly reduced $25 for two hours and $10 for each additional hour. "It's a win-win for the community," he said.
One of the big questions still to be worked out is how renters will gain access to the building. Nicastro said part of the current fee is to pay for township employees to open and close the pavilion for each event. Alternatives like a keypad being installed or non copy keys would eliminate the need for the attendant.
Part of the newly proposed system would be a security deposit to ensure the pavilion is left in good shape after an event.
Nicastro also brought up the possibility of allowing alcohol at events at the park but that also brings its own set of challenges that were discussed at Tuesday's meeting. "The thought process was that it would be more attractive if somebody wanted to have a small wedding or a baby shower for example," Nicastro said.
There were questions raised about whether an officer from the would have to be at the party if alcohol was available. Nicastro said that was not his intention when making the suggestion. "It was brought to our attention that there are some liability concerns and if a police officer is needed whenever there's alcohol it defeats the purpose of what I hoped the goal was."
Township Attorney McKenna Kingdon said that if an officer was required to be at the party it would be an additional fee of $59 per hour. That includes $55 for the officer and $4 in administrative fees.
Even if alcohol is not allowed the Nicastro said he still believed it would be an attractive option especially for kids parties and similar events. Councilwoman Pauline Smith said she did not believe alcohol was needed on the premises. "A lot of places including Turkey Swamp Park don't allow alcohol and they don't have any problem renting out the pavilion," she said.
Deputy Mayor William Gotto said the council could take things one step at a time. "We've already made a lot of changes in order to get the expressed reason why we're doing this which was to get the interest and more people involved in the community," he said. Gotto said they could eliminate alcohol and see what the feedback is like at the end of the season.
Councilman Juan Malave raised several issues including the entrance ability and the fees and was also worried about the size of events at the park. "I suggested limiting attendance based on available parking because the worst thing we want is to have an overflow of people there parked on the side of the road," he said. "It's not safe for them or our residents in the area and we're going to get a lot of police complaints."
Smith said she agreed with that idea saying it would also be "a way to control the situation so it wouldn't get out of control."
While they continue to work on a new process for Echo Lake Park Township Manager Helene Schlegel suggested another step the council might want to take in the future. Schlegel said a "gathering permit," could be beneficial for the township. "I think they go hand in hand which would address some of the larger issues of the larger events," she said. The permit, she said would apply to not only Echo Lake Park but "would govern all our properties."
The next council meeting is scheduled for June 12 at 7:30 p.m. at .