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Owen County Commissioners Introduce Long-Awaited Festival Ordinance

Jim Bryan

Owen County Attorney Jim Bryan reads Owen County Ordinance 2019-0041 - Special Events aloud at the Oct. 21 meeting of the Owen County Commissioners (Mitch Legan, WTIU/WFIU News)

The Owen County Commissioners officially introduced a new ordinance dictating rules and regulations for festivals and special events in the county at Monday night’s meeting in Spencer.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to release Ordinance 2019-0041 – Special Events to the public for review.

READ MORE: Controversy arose about the ordinance changes last month after form letters surfaced describing the Spencer Pride Fest as inappropriate for children

County attorney Jim Bryan read the seven-page ordinance aloud to a standing-room only crowd in the county’s Emergency Management Agency conference room.

Roughly 60 people squeezed in the room for a chance to hear the long-awaited ordinance. More waited outside in hopes of getting information passed along from those inside the actual conference room.

But Monday night was not the time for public input, according to Jeff Brothers, the president of the Owen County Commissioners. 

“There wasn’t any time,” Brothers says. “It’s a late-night meeting and we want to get everyone home on time.”

Now that the ordinance has been approved for review, residents will be able to read it over themselves and make comments on it at the next Commissioners meeting on Nov. 4 at 9 a.m.

But that’s only if they make an official request to be put on the agenda.

“What we’re looking for is public input,” Brothers says. “And we’re gonna give them the opportunity to attend and give us input on the ordinance so we can make it fair for everybody.”

Brothers says he thinks the ordinance will be adopted at the Nov. 4 meeting.

“Probably an approval,” was Brothers’ response when asked what he thought would happen with the ordinance on Nov. 4.

The proposed rules regulating downtown events are in response to some concerns about the annual Spencer Pride Festival. 

Section six b.12 of the ordinance reads, "Displaying any sexually explicit or suggestive materials, items, or images is prohibited. No vendor may sell or display any sexually explicit or suggestive materials, items, or images on County grounds."

A form letter that circulated in August described the Pride Fest as overly sexual and inappropriate for children under the age of 18.

With a population of about 2,250, Spencer is the smallest town in the United States with a designated LGBTQ center.

When most of the public had left and a handful of people were still at the meeting, Brothers and County Sheriff Leonard Hobbs discussed a section of the ordinance that deals with security. Hobbs wanted to make clear that the proposed law enforcement security fee was not mandatory and would only be applied if officials felt security was necessary.

Brothers, who misunderstood the clause, thought it was mandatory and would have to be applied to every festival. What if, he asked, there was someone dressed inappropriately at one of the festivals and was therefore a danger to children?

After the meeting ended, the Morals of America Facebook page created a post on Facebook. Morals of America is the group behind the aforementioned form letters that the Owen County Commissioners had originally tried to pass off as a petition from taxpayers complaining about festival costs.

The post reads as follows:

OCC Meeting 10/21

The Owen County Commissioners will next meet Nov. 4 at 9 a.m. in the Emergency Management Agency conference room at 129 S. Washington St. in Spencer.

The deadline to be put on the next meeting agenda is Wednesday, Oct. 30 at noon. Those who wish to be on the next meeting agenda should contact Owen County Auditor Patty Steward.

Owen County Ordinance 2019-0041 – Special Events by Indiana Public Media News on Scribd

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