Southern Nevada’s Clark County Fire Department is proposing a substantial fee hike for conducting fire inspections and Las Vegas’ convention industry is not happy about it, claiming the proposed hike may drive tradeshows out of Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), MGM Mirage, Sands Expo and Convention Center, Freeman and Global Experience Specialists, Inc (GES) are among the properties and companies voicing concerns over the proposed fee hike. As the destination marketing organization, the LVCVA has taken a lead role on behalf of the city’s convention industry regarding the proposed fee hike and is recommending the fees remain at existing levels.
In a letter to the Clark County Fire Department, the LVCVA states the proposed fee increases would place Las Vegas at a severe competitive disadvantage and risks jeopardizing the city’s number one ranking in North America.
“Las Vegas is the top convention city in the country, and part of that is due to our competitive pricing,” said Vince Alberta, vice president of public affairs for LVCVA. “Based on our research, our main competitors currently charge fees comparable to the existing fee structure in Las Vegas. If the new fee schedule is implemented, the fees would increase by 10 times the current rate. That will put us at a severe competitive disadvantage.”
Fire department officials, however, say the hike is necessary to ensure adequate staff is available to conduct proper, timely inspections. Tradeshow inspections are required to ensure the safety of exhibitors and attendees. The convention industry is just one of many industries subject to the proposed fire inspection fee hikes.
“Our current fee structure does not cover the cost of doing business, including plans check (reviews) and field inspections,” said Girard Page, senior deputy fire chief for the Clark County Fire Department. “This is a proposal to get the fire department back in a position to cover the costs of doing show inspections.”
The old fee schedule is a flat rate based on booth size, whereas the new fee schedule is calculated by booth size and the date the plans are submitted for inspection.
Old Fee Schedule
• $75 for exhibits of 4,500 square feet to 14,999 square feet
• $150 for exhibits of 15,000 square feet to 74,999 square feet
• $225 for exhibits of 75,000 square feet and up
• $75 additional for a “double decker” booth regardless of size
New Fee Schedule:
• $270 for covered and/or multi-story booths, but the longer a company waits to submit plans, the more fees escalate
• Submit plans 9 days before event: $338 plus $.002 per square foot
• Submit plans 5-9 days before event: $676 plus $.002 per square foot
• Submit plans 2-4 days before event: $1,014 plus $.002 per square foot
• Submit plans 2 days before event: $1,352 plus $.002 per square foot
“We have met with convention industry representatives and we have a pretty good dialogue with them,” Girard said. “They (representatives) have given us feedback in meetings and in writing as to what their concerns are. With their assistance, we are trying to identify what is a reasonable time to do these inspections…but we are also trying to educate the industry as to what our costs are relative to the work.”
Girard added that the convention industry has idiosyncrasies that require last minute inspections meaning his staff has to work nights and weekends. The only way to meet the needs of the convention industry is to increase the fee structure that allows for hiring additional staff and overtime hours, he said.
“The convention industry requires very quick turn around because tradeshow organizers want to sell as much space as possible, at the last possible minute,” he said. “What we are faced with at the fire department is a situation where they (show representatives) walk in on a Friday at 4:45 p.m. with 60 plans for a convention that starts on Sunday or Monday. We then have to find someone at the last minute that wants to work (review plans) until midnight or later, through Saturday and then we have to go out and do the onsite inspections. It becomes a coordination work load and financial burden for the fire department.”
Girard was adamant in saying that the fire department is not opposed to working within the last-minute requirements of the convention industry, but the department has to have the resources to do it effectively.
Alberta said the opposing parties understand there is a need to both reassess and generate new ideas to maintain revenue, but they believe the Clark County Fire Department may not realize some unintended consequences of adding a fee-based system to taxes already collected.
“The convention industry supports approximately 46,000 jobs in Las Vegas and generates more than $5.5 billion annually for the local economy,” Alberta said. “It is crucial that any decision made will not hinder our ability to maintain our status as the top convention city in the nation.”
The Clark County Commission will review the proposed fee structure May 4.
Aleta Walther is a Southern California-based marketing and communications professional and freelance writer with several years experience as a corporate event manager. Contact Aleta at firstname.lastname@example.org.