West Allis - It's block party time in West Allis, and this year it'll be $25 cheaper.
To encourage neighbors to get together and promote a neighborhood feeling, the Common Council last week voted to suspend the usual $25 residential block party fee for the rest of the year.
All the other requirements for block parties will remain, including obtaining a permit, getting the signatures of at least half the people on the block, and abiding by rules for when street barricades are to be taken down.
A get-together motive
Alderman Michael May, serving his first term, proposed the fee suspension as a result of comments he heard while door-to-door campaigning this year. A lot of longtime residents said they wished they knew the newcomers, and the new kids on the block wished they knew the long-timers. The $25 block party fee seemed to be an impediment, May said.
To make up for the $300 to $350 in lost fees, May said he is waiving the health and dental coverage he is entitled to as an alderman, which will more than cover the revenue loss.
Not-so-firm voting block
The decision on suspending the fee was decisively split, with the council deadlocked in a 5-5 vote before Mayor Dan Devine broke the tie.
Those against said $25 is too small a sum to get in the way of a block party and that temporarily suspending it would deviate from the city's policy of getting back at least some of its costs.
Voting against were aldermen Gary Barczak, James Sengstock, Thomas Lajsic, Vincent Vitale and Rosie Reinke.
"Twenty-five dollars is minimal," Barczak said. "In 24 years, I've never had a person say it's so expensive."
"There is a reason for the fees," Sengstock noted. "This is deviating from a policy."
The city already offers the chance to have a free block party during the citywide National Night Out celebration, Lajsic added.
But May countered that parents of young children usually have to put them to bed by 7 p.m., so they miss most of National Night Out, and those who work at night miss it all.
His views were supported by aldermen Cathleen Probst, Marty Weigel, Michael Czaplewski and Dan Roadt.
"It would be a small investment to foster better neighborhoods," Weigel said.
The suspension applies only to residential block parties, not parties that taverns sponsor. The block party fee will be back next year.
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