VB Council defers decision on sponsoring Something in the Water to address confusion over funding

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After more than an hour of discussion, Virginia Beach City Council chose not to make a decision on sponsoring the second Something in the Water festival — in any way — at least for the time being.

On Tuesday, council voted to defer approving a financial sponsorship agreement with the festival after confusion over a new proposal brought by Councilman Aaron Rouse. The initial electronic vote had Rouse as the only member to vote against a deferral, however, while the council was moving on to their next item, he announced he meant to hit “the green” button to approve the deferral.

Council had two options before them: fund the festival at $250,000, just as they did the year before, which the city manager’s office put forward, or go with Rouse’s plan.

Rouse’s plan would be to let the festival keep all the admissions taxes collected by the city from the festival — some of which would be given to the festival before it begins. This year, the sum of city admissions tax income from the festival is estimated to be $900,000.

Both options include the free use of city stages, buildings, public safety, public works and HRT Trolley services.

Until now, only the city manager’s office had brought forward any Something in the Water-related action items.

“Nobody spoke to my office about a different sponsorship agreement that I was aware of,” Acting City Manager Tom Leahy said following the meeting. “The $250,000 agreement was what council budgeted for last year.”

Rouse said his reasons behind proposing an alternative was to “reinvest in the festival.”

In his comments he pointed out that the mega-festival, which is the brainchild of superstar and Beach native Pharrell Williams, is expected to be longer and larger than the previous year.

However, several council members had questions about how much — or how little — money the festival would end up actually getting.

Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson further questioned if a larger look needed to be taken about how all the Oceanfront festivals are funded. Other festivals must repay 50 percent of the city’s cost for providing police, public works and fire support.

“I am a big supporter of this, I was 100 percent in favor of last year and 150 percent in favor of this year,” said Mayor Bobby Dyer. “I want to see a unified vote on this.”

Residents spoke both in favor and in opposition of increasing the funding.

Some people in opposition said their tax dollars shouldn’t go toward supporting a wealthy entertainer’s festival.

Dyer suggested a council discussion at next week’s meeting if Rouse would defer the issue.

“I was always taught don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today,” Rouse said.

Ultimately, it was Councilman Louis Jones (Bayside) who made the motion to defer. The issue will now be voted on March 17.

CORRECTION: The original article stated the vote to defer was 10-1. This article has been updated to document what happened after the electronically recorded vote in Council Chambers.

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