City more than fair to 'Lt. Dan' organizers

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 9, 2013 

Beaufort City Council was right to dismiss an appeal from the Independence Fund to further reduce its bill for services provided during the Lt. Dan Weekend.

The Independence Fund must pay its way. That includes paying a bill from the city that the Beaufort nonprofit considers a "misunderstanding."

The initial bill from the city was $11,023 for security and other services during the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend to honor and reward wounded veterans. The festival last September included two nights of concerts in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

After the charity met with the city staff, the bill was reduced to $4,610.

But the Independence Fund still complained, saying police service was "excessive" on a night it drew fewer than 800 people to the park. It said most of the police should have been sent home.

It's not the place of organizations that rent the park to micro-manage the Police Department. And we see no "misunderstanding."

The Independence Fund serves a good purpose. It offers respect and relaxation to wounded veterans and their families. It pays for equipment that the government will not or cannot provide. The festival is a good fit for Beaufort, with its military heritage and direct link to the "Lt. Dan" movie character played by Gary Sinise. Sinise won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1994 for his role as a Vietnam veteran paraplegic in "Forrest Gump," which was filmed in Beaufort. Today, his Lt. Dan Band headlines the Lt. Dan Weekend, and raises money nationwide for wounded veterans.

But none of that excuses the charity from paying its bills or living up to organizational standards expected by its many donors who give time, money and services.

The city has shown its support repeatedly, including approval of a $10,000 accommodations tax grant for the festival.

The city must first and foremost be fair and consistent in billing organizations that hold events in the Waterfront Park.

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