Bellevue puts conditions on WizardVue II

Bellevue Council is giving Mayor Emily Marburger and the Friends of Bayne Library tentative approval to hold another Harry Potter festival in town this year, but making it clear that there will be more council oversight this time around.

The first “WizardVue” festival was held last August as a fund-raiser for the Friends of Bayne Library, a private, nonprofit organization formed to support Bayne Library in Bellevue. While reviews of the festival content itself were positive, the event quickly drew criticism from residents and business owners because of the extensive road closures that limited access to parking as well as businesses and churches.

The magic dust really hit the fan a couple weeks later, however, when Bellevue Council was presented with some $10,000 in festival-related bills, most of them from outside police agencies that had been contracted to provide security for a grossly-overestimated crowd. An emergency command center was established after Police Chief Matt Sentner says he was told by Pennsylvania State Police that a similar festival held in nearby Volant, PA had attracted some 10,000 visitors. Volant festival organizers were never contacted, but later reported that attendance at the second year of their festival was about 2,500.

None of the expenditures were ever approved by council -- nor was council ever informed the bills were coming -- until after they were received.

At the time, Marburger promised a full financial report for council, and said that it was possible that money raised during the festival could be used to pay down a lot of the borough’s debt.

Officials have yet to receive that report. Marburger said at Tuesday’s pre-council meeting that the Friends of Bayne Library have not yet received monies collected through use of a local business’s credit card account. That business is no longer open in Bellevue. The owner of that business, however, says that Marburger was given a check for $1,463.74 on Sept. 19, representing the net receipts of credit card sales on the day of the festival. The owner said that the only funds yet to be given to WizardVue are about $200-$300 representing merchandise sales after the festival.

That $1,463.74 check is not reflected in records generated by the Friends last October. According to the business owner, the check given to Marburger cleared the business account later in the month.

The records indicate that the Friends of Bayne Library received $3,550 in direct donations for WizardVue from various businesses, coming in before and after the event. About $160 was derived from pre-event merchandise sales. About a week after the event, Marburger made a deposit in the Friends account of $8,651.90. The Friends indicate that $2,315.29 remained in the group’s PayPal account as of last fall, and is attributed to WizardVue.

The records indicate that of the $12,362 exclusive of the PayPal proceeds, the Friends made only $584.87. The remainder was spent on entertainment, insurance and festival merchandise.

Marburger told council at Tuesday’s meeting that this year’s festival is scheduled for June 22, and that she needed immediate approval so that she could begin locking in vendors.

“Everybody on council is leery,” said council member Anya Pikul, who said that council needed a detailed plan for the event, and especially its finances.

Council member Grant Saylor called the festival “wonderful,” but added that “it gave all of us here in the community a black eye” because of the surprise bills that followed.

Council agreed unanimously to allow the festival to be held, contingent upon a complete plan being submitted to council within 30 days, and there being no cost to the borough.