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WESTCHESTER : Country Fair Canceled After Impasse Over Fees

March 17, 1994|MATHIS CHAZANOV

It was supposed to be a weekend of fun, with thousands of dollars from the proceeds of food stands, arts and crafts booths and carnival rides going to local schools.

But the Westchester Country Fair has been canceled--the victim, depending on whom you talk to, of Los Angeles City Hall, the Jan. 17 earthquake or a simple communication lapse.

"This fund-raiser was for our schools, not the city recreation and parks general fund," said principal organizer Sandy Luboviski, chairwoman of the education committee of the Westchester/LAX Chamber of Commerce.

"It is a sad day when the city can destroy the momentum of positive energy generated toward helping our children," she said.

Organizers said they were told months ago that permit fees for the April 22 event at Westchester Park would total no more $1,200.

But they learned about two weeks ago that the parks department wanted $10,000 and 5% of the gross revenues. Earlier meetings where the fees might have been clarified were put off because of the quake.

"That's pretty much the whole profit right there," said Donald W. Savoie, executive director of the chamber, which has sponsored the event since 1991. "We only gave $10,400 to the schools last year as it was."

Representatives of Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and Mayor Richard Riordan were called in and frantic negotiations won some concessions from department officials, organizers said.

David R. Gonzalez, assistant general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, said he cut fees as much as he could when he learned of the chamber's difficulties last week.

Although he could not do away with charges for staging the carnival and for the use of individual booths, he said he managed to cancel the fees for using the site, maintenance and rangers' services, among others. (Luboviski said the new fees totaled $3,600.)

The last he heard, Gonzalez said Wednesday, was that that solution would be acceptable to the organizers.

Jeffrey Prang, a spokesman for Galanter, said the misunderstanding was due to "a chain of unfortunate things," including the parks department's erroneous estimate of $600 a day in city fees and the earthquake, which preoccupied department officials.

Prang said chamber officials apparently did not understand the complexity of organizing such a large-scale event on city property. The fair had been held at Loyola Marymount University, but it was unavailable this year because of construction.

After a last-minute flurry of futile telephone calls and faxes, the chamber's executive committee, fearing possible losses, voted on Friday to call the whole thing off.

Last year's fair netted at least $800 for each of 13 public and private schools in the Westchester area, all of which contributed dozens of volunteers.

The schools also kept the revenue from T-shirt and advance ticket sales, yielding as much as $2,000.

"It's safe to say we're severely disappointed," said Tony Cooper, principal of the private Westchester Neighborhood School. The school used the money from previous fairs for computer software, basketball equipment and class furniture, Cooper said.

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