New London will organize a new St. Patrick's Day committee

New London — With no success in negotiations for an agreement with the organizers of the annual Irish Parade, the mayor announced Wednesday that he has created a new parade committee.

A St. Patrick's Day Parade is now planned for Sunday, March 17. Event coordinator Sean Murray, assisted by Downtown New London Association Executive Director Barbara Neff, will head the committee, a press release from the mayor's office said.

The president of the New London Irish Parade Inc. committee, City Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, said the committee ran out of time to respond to the city's latest terms for granting a permit for the event.

"We were in negotiations, and unfortunately the administration gave us an offer late Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend, and we were not able to reach all our committee members by a close of business Tuesday deadline," Friess-McSparran said Wednesday.

Friess-McSparran told a columnist for The Day last week that the committee was planning to move the parade out of New London, prompting Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio to accuse the organizers of playing politics.

Negotiations revolved around the amount the city would charge the committee for police and public works services. Under an executive order issued by the mayor earlier this year, the city will not give out special event permits until estimated charges for services are paid in full.

The mayor said Wednesday that the two sides were stalled over whether the committee, a nonprofit organization, would pay $7,500 for the shorter route used until this year or approximately $4,000 more for the longer route followed in 2012. The committee, he said, wanted to keep to the longer route but pay the lower amount.

Friess-McSparran said the parade should have been billed at different rates since the City Council had made it a city-sanctioned event, but Finizio said he couldn't make an exception to the established rates because a group "has a political connection."

According to the press release, Murray approached Finizio and the DNLA about starting a new committee after negotiations failed to produce a permit for the NL Irish Parade Inc.

"The NL Irish Parade Committee has produced a well-organized event that has benefited New London for the past few years and it is unfortunate to see them go but this is a great event for New London businesses and is a lot of fun for our entire community," Murray said in the mayor's press release.

Neff and Finizio said they have heard from numerous downtown businesses that want to contribute. The mayor said the city will charge the same rates offered to the New London Irish Parade Inc., based on the traditional, shorter route (South Water to Bank to upper State streets) or last spring's loop of Jay, Huntington, Tilley, Bank and State streets and back.

Friess-McSparran and Finizio each said Wednesday that the other side had been heading toward this ending right along.

Friess-McSparran said she did not believe that Murray's offer was a surprise to the mayor. "It appears that he has been planning it for some time. It did not just come up today," she said.

Finizio disagreed.

"I believe this was a set-up from start to finish," he said. "Their intent was to leave New London and cast the blame on the administration."

Friess-McSparran said the committee has had discussions with "numerous municipalities" about moving the parade but can't yet say where it could go.

The new parade committee is not a city committee, the mayor said, but is working through the DNLA.


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