Apparently some birthday bashes in Pasco have become so big that residents are asking to close down streets for the day to make room for their bouncy houses.
But the city council this week pondered whether the city should close streets for private events, and what criteria should be applied when the city does decide to block traffic for a parade, festival or party.
Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel said the city gets 15 to 20 requests for street closures each year. Some are for big events like the Cinco de Mayo parade or the now-defunct Fiery Foods Festival.
But the city increasingly is getting requests to block streets for events such as block parties and birthday parties, he added.
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And with small events that don't have the cadre of volunteers and experienced planners that a larger community festival might have comes the possibility of increased risk of liability to the city if something goes wrong -- like if a car plows through a set of orange traffic cones and into that bouncy house.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the liability is of particular concern because the council opted for a $100,000 deductible on its liability insurance policy this year.
The city has had a zero deductible previously, but with the higher deductible, the city will want to try to avoid claims as much as possible, he said.
"If you get a claim -- even if you win -- you will spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend it," Crutchfield said. "That seems like an unnecessary risk to taxpayers."
Council members appeared to favor having a process that allows street closure permits for a range of events, but agreed that they probably don't want to support street closures for something like a private birthday party.
"Personally, I can't imagine closing off a block of a community for a birthday party," Councilman Al Yenney said. "There are so many places for a nice venue and you don't have to worry about someone running a barricade."
The next step is to hammer out who will be responsible for deciding when an event merits a street closure and when it doesn't.
Strebel suggested a committee with the police chief, fire chief and city engineer might be a good option, with applicants able to appeal the committee's decision to the city manager or city council.
Crutchfield said the city also will have to write some explicit criteria for when a street can be closed so the city doesn't get accused of discrimination.
Strebel said he could bring a draft set of standards back to the council in about a month for consideration.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org