The Berlin mayor and Town Council don’t want to be the bad guys in denying the request of the child educational program Tinkergarten to operate in town park space.
At the same time, however, they do have weigh that situation against the need to maintain a consistent policy that covers all private functions on public property, for profit or otherwise.
Even though it’s doubtful Tinkergarten would be rolling in the money, given the $17 participation fee it would charge for each class, allowing it access would set a precedent that town officials would have to skirt, awkwardly at best and unfairly at worst, as other private party applicants make similar requests.
As Councilman Dean Burrell rightly observed, Tinkergarten is a good program, but its purpose, quality and objectives have nothing to do with how he would vote. Its use of town property for private gain, however small, he added, is a line he is unwilling to cross.
Other council members pointed to Jeep Week’s use of town property as evidence the town’s position on park use is not inflexible. That circumstance, however, could best be described as a pre-existing condition that should not be amplified, unless town officials want to set themselves up as arbiters of which events are worthy and which are not.
The best policy, besides the one the town already has, would be to make park space available to private operators for a fee based on the size and scope of each event, providing they did not conflict with planned or even contemplated gatherings of the public.
While the demand for such space is not that great now, it could be once Berlin Falls begins to take shape. In the meantime, the mayor and council will just have to say no to the idea of allowing commercial ventures to operate at no charge on town property, no matter how uncomfortable it might be to reject a good program.