RUNNERS take off at the start of the annual Moxie Day 5K in this July 11, 2009, file photo. The festival committee and town officials have been working on ways to move the the bulk of preparations away from town officials and toward volunteers and nonprofit groups.

RUNNERS take off at the start of the annual Moxie Day 5K in this July 11, 2009, file photo. The festival committee and town officials have been working on ways to move the the bulk of preparations away from town officials and toward volunteers and nonprofit groups.

The Town Council is poised to move preparations for the annual Moxie Festival away from the town and toward volunteers and nonprofit groups.

Scott Benson, the town’s economic and community development director, presented the Moxie Festival Committee’s plan of action to town councilors Tuesday. Councilors did not vote on the plan.

Benson said a Sept. 25 workshop revealed three tasks: reducing the number of staff hours committed by municipal staff; creating greater ownership among volunteers and organizations; and “preserving an important community institution.”

The plan is a start, Benson said, “but it’s clear we’ve got to walk before we can run.”

The first proposal is to outsource two major committee functions to local nonprofit organizations: product sales and vendors. In exchange, nonprofits would get a percentage of revenue they generate, to be negotiated by the Moxie Festival Committee.

Benson said that move would allow the committee’s parade chairperson to take over tasks done by municipal staff, freeing up the town clerk and town manager’s administrative assistant.

“This was always a huge concern for us,” Benson said. The parade “is a hard thing to plan all year long and harder still to manage on the day of the event.”

The Topsham Trailriders ATV and snowmobile club has volunteered to stage the parade next year, he said.

The community development director will serve as town liaison to the committee, manage the finances and help the committee set agendas and run monthly meetings. The fire chief and recreation director will remain members of the festival committee, and the fire chief will continue to run public safety events and coordinate the Friday night fireworks. The recreation director will run the 5K and car show.

Benson told councilors spending for the 2012 event increased by only about $500 from 2011, including for entertainment and products, while revenue increased by more than $6,000.

“We started with $2,800 in unexpended balance from 2011,” Benson said. “We raised $30,000, we spent roughly $26,000, so we have startup funds for next year of $7,000.

“So as you can see, we’ve really more than doubled our startup funds going into next year.”

The town annually appropriates $2,500 to support the festival.

Councilor Lisa Ward asked Benson if he sees the festival becoming self-sustaining, and might the annual appropriation of the town one day not be needed.

“Well I think it is (self-sustaining),” Benson said. “Certainly we’d like to make this no impact to the taxpayer if we could. In my view, appropriation of town funds on an annual basis is an important gesture, I think.”

Town Council Chairman Fern Larochelle said that, were the town able to calculate the benefit of the Moxie Festival in dollars to local businesses, “it would be quite amazing I think. It would be a number that would be staggering.”

Benson noted there are events and functions of the parade committee that run well and don’t have to be changed. “I did leave (the Sept. 25 forum) with concerns that the community thought the situation was more dire than perhaps we talked about that night.”

Next year’s festival is July 12-14. The three-day event, which pays tribute to the medicinal tasting soda invented in Maine in the 1870s, attracts 50,000 people or more.

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