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Mayor Tries But Fails to Save New Year's Eve

Merchants Association says not even city assistance will lower the costs of a Carytown New Year's.

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A series of behind-the-scenes, 11th-hour efforts to resuscitate the Carytown New Year's Eve celebration have failed to raise hopes this year.

During the past three years, the ball-raising party has drawn thousands — and cost thousands more for its organizer, the Carytown Merchants Association. Its president estimates his organization has lost in the range of $54,000 on the event.

Citing high costs and losses, the association announced Oct. 20 that the show would not go on. Within days, Dwight C. Jones' office contacted President Thom Suddeth to discuss the event, though nothing materialized.

This month the mayor's office tried to jump-start conversations.

On Dec. 2, “We sat down with the city,” says Suddeth, who calls the overture “too little, too late” to bring in 2010 with a bang.

He says Jones administration officials have asked to continue talks in January to discuss resurrecting the event for 2011. But Suddeth says Carytown's participation remains in doubt: The city has yet to agree to carry more of the costs, and Jones officials appear to be exploring the possibility of relocating the event.

“They say maybe someplace else might be a more natural place,” Suddeth says, calling it a possible point of agreement if the city is unwilling to foot some of the bill. (Style Weekly also met with the city to explore reviving a New Year's event.)

“[Administration officials] didn't have a lot of information,” Suddeth says, “even as far as what the budget was on this.” Ironically, the overwhelming cost has been to pay the city, specifically Richmond Police Department, for security and crowd control.

Jones' spokeswoman, Tammy Hawley, says the mayor remains committed to the event, though she stopped shy of saying the city would become a partner in sharing costs. “We're not looking at underwriting the event, but we are looking at whether there are ways we reduce the cost,” she says, citing the “strong security concern” for maintaining an active police presence.

Suddeth confirms rumors swirling amongst his fellow Carytown business owners that some of police costs have ruffled feathers. Among those charges, according to one merchant, is a bill for so-called air support for nearly $2,000. Merchants say they're unaware of any aircraft deployed to provide direct support to the event.

City Councilman Marty Jewell, whose district includes Carytown, says he's working with merchants to get an itemized receipt for services from Richmond authorities.

“The largest cost appeared to be coming from the city — most of it was law enforcement and security,” says Jewell, who first approached the merchants in mid-November seeking to help resurrect the ball raising. “It's the only thing like this between D.C. and Raleigh, N.C. It's a huge event for the city and Lord knows we need anything under these economic conditions to lift our spirits.”

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