Heimlicher: Cancel fee for Santa in Bancroft

       Westside City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher is standing up for Santa Claus. And he thinks he has the votes.
       At issue is City Parks' proposal to raise the daily rental fee for Bancroft Park from $75 to $200 next year. This could make it too expensive for the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group to continue its annual practice of having Santa in the park's historic cabin on numerous days during the Christmas season, OCCA President Nancy Stovall told Colorado Springs City Council at its formal meeting Nov. 22.
       Moved by her plea, Heimlicher convinced council to postpone action on the fee and reconsider it Tuesday, Dec. 13. “That's 12 days before Christmas,” Heimlicher said. “I'm going to say that Santa shouldn't pay anything.”
       His thinking is that Santa, who meets children for free in the cabin, is part of an educational and historical activity. “Kids are learning how people lived in those days,” he said. He also thinks it's significant that only the cabin, not the rest of the park, is used.
       But giving Santa a free ticket is not Heimlicher's only Bancroft crusade. For all other events, he thinks the fee should remain at $75. At the Dec. 12 informal meeting, he said he will ask City Parks to explain why the increase was deemed necessary. Unless he hears an explanation that's unexpectedly convincing, he said he plans to take the matter to a vote at the formal meeting the next day, at which time he believes he has the support of a majority of council members.
       Mike McCauley of City Parks had explained at a meeting on Bancroft reservations in October that the $200 fee made sense from a fairness standpoint because that is the fee for other parks in the city.
       A big reason for not raising the fee is Bancroft's unique status as a little park near a commercial area, Heimlicher said. A $200 fee would be the same as for a park with full amenities, such as Memorial Park.
       Another point for keeping the fee down is that Westside volunteers - specifically members of the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) - led a campaign to restore the cabin two years ago. OCCHS in fact administered the grant that funded the repairs, whereas if City Parks had done so, it would have faced an income penalty under TABOR.
       If for some reason the Bancroft fee has to go up, Heimlicher said he would like to see it happen gradually over several years so as not to have a major impact. However, he said, “I'm going to do my best to have it remain the same and not go up at all.”
       This is the second time this fall that Heimlicher has involved himself in policy direction for Bancroft Park. The first time was last September, when he gained a council consensus to limit for-profit rentals of the park to just once a month.

Westside Pioneer article