Douglas County Commission denies permit for 3-day festival, approves purchase of voting equipment

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

The Douglas County Commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

After eight neighbors spoke in opposition Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission turned down a special event permit application for a three-day festival just west of Clinton Lake.

Commissioners said two spring incidents that neighbors described led them to deny the request from Laura Lockton and Humayun Khan of ReKinection LLC. The partners applied to have an arts and wellness festival Sept. 28 through 30 on 122 acres they own at 375 North 851 Diagonal Road.

Lockton told commissioners Wednesday she and Khan planned to sell 1,000 tickets for three-day camping and another 500 day passes each day.

Neighbors, however, told the commission that a wildfire had started on the ReKinection site on a burn-ban day in March, and they also complained about an April 27 and 28 gathering at the site.

Sean Reid, county zoning and codes director, said those reports from neighbors gave him reservations about the permit request despite the 22 conditions that would have been required of ReKinection and the $1 million liability insurance policy the partners would have had to obtain for the event.

Jackie Craine said the fire in March came within 100 feet of her mother’s home at 1045 East 251 Diagonal Road and caused extensive fence damage before four township fire departments brought it under control.

And Lt. Blake McCall of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said he and deputies visited the ReKinection property April 27 and 28 in response to noise complaints and found a large crowd and organized activities that should have required a permit.

Lockton told the commission the gathering was originally planned as a reunion of family and friends, but that it grew out of hand when uninvited guests showed up.

Commissioner Michelle Derusseau agreed with McCall that the April event should have had a permit, citing posts that she had found on ReKinection’s Facebook page promoting such an event.

In voting to deny the permit, Commission Chair Nancy Thellman said the incidents described by neighbors gave her no confidence ReKinection could stay within the constraints of the special event permit and not put neighbors at risk.

In other business, commissioners unanimously approved County Clerk Jamie Shew’s request to purchase new election equipment for $677,120, although Commissioner Mike Gaughan questioned the request’s timing.

Shew requested purchasing 80 new ballot scanners and associated equipment to be placed in precincts on election days and the needed software and hardware. He recommended purchasing the equipment from Henry M. Adkins and Son Inc., the lowest of five bidders.

The new equipment will replace an older system bought in 2006, which had a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, Shew said. The new equipment would be the same paper-based ballot system as the current system.

Before voting for the purchase, Gaughan questioned the timing of the request — six days before Proposition 1 ballots were to be counted. The commission has stated that it would review discretionary spending if the ballot question fails so that it could build a cash reserve to expand the county jail in phases. If county voters approve Proposition 1, they will authorize a half-cent sales tax that would fund a $44 million expansion of the county jail, an $11 million behavioral health court and $5.1 million in additional behavioral health services.

Gaughan agreed elections were a core service of the county, but he said the request could have been delayed a week. He noted commissioners turned down a $144,000 request last month to install an American with Disabilities Act-compliant viewing platform at Wells Overlook because of funding uncertainties if Proposition 1 fails.

In response, Shew said the purchase would be funded with a cash reserve his office built for nearly a decade.

“I was ready to do this two years ago, so we are already working with equipment that is out of date,” he said.