SOUTH HAVEN — When South Haven city officials made a decision this year to start charging groups a non-refundable $150 fee to hold special events on city property, they thought it was a good idea.

After all, a number of the events, such as the ones at Riverfront Park, take place over several days and involve the help of city employees who end up working overtime to provide custodial, maintenance or public safety-related services.

However, after several non-profit groups cried foul over the fee, city have officials have altered the policy. 

The amended policy will allow groups to apply for a waiver if they can prove their event involves very little, if any, use of city employees’ time and resources.

“The fee was intended to offset some of the cost of bringing in staff to haul trash or set up barricades or have a larger police presence,” City Manager Brian Dissette said Monday. But “we realized some events are quite small,” he added.

Other events, however, do incur costs for the city, but also bring a public benefit to the city in terms of extra revenue derived from visitors who spend money locally when attending the special events. 

“The intention of the charge was not to cover the entirety of the city’s costs associated with special events, but rather to detour frivolous individual event applications,” Dissette said.

The waiver process should help sort out which events should be charged a fee and which ones shouldn’t.

“We’re trying to have some flexibility,” Dissette said. “Some we will legitimately say no to. If staff has to come in at 3 a.m. to do cleanup, we shouldn’t have to waive the fee.”