CORRECTION: The AVA erroneously referred to Reggae on the River last week as “defunct,” which it’s definitely not and which Mr. Mintz did not say. The AVA’s out-of-touch assistant editor Major Scaramella apologizes for not knowing that Reggae on the River is still quite active. Reggae on the River is now held at the Benbow Recreation Area and Reggae Rising is held at Dimmick Ranch. Reggae on the River is July 17&18 at Benbow Lake. For more information go to reggaeontheriver.com
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Faced with debts to police agencies, Reggae Rising owner Tom Dimmick came to the June 17 Planning Commission meeting with certified checks in hand but it’s uncertain if he’ll be able to meet the county’s permit requirements by a new July 1 deadline.
Dimmick and his festival are on the ropes, as the money owed to the county Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is only part of the debt load connected to last year’s Reggae Rising event. Multiple county and state agencies that service the festival have yet to sign off on it and Dimmick was expected to have gained their support and paid off the police agencies by last week’s hearing.
Just prior to the meeting, Dimmick secured the money to pay the Sheriff’s Office and the CHP about $16,000 and $29,000 respectively and showed the checks to planning commissioners who asked to see them. This year’s Reggae Rising – set for the weekend of August 6 if it happens – will have a new operator, Miller Event Management, which Dimmick said will make the festival’s staffing more efficient and save “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” allowing him to pay off his debts.
He also pointed out that the festival’s permit calls for requirements to be met at least 30 days before the event and Dimmick asked commissioners to give him that time. “To some extent, I’m feeling little picked on here,” he said.
“We have a public trust issue here,” said County Undersheriff Mike Downey. “We have been very patient – very patient – we have been willing to work with Mr. Dimmick time and time again and the promises become shallower and shallower.”
He added that payment of the debt is appreciated but “I do not see how he will be able to pay us in full for this next year’s event and we will not participate based on that.”
Adam Jager, the commander of the CHP’s Garberville office, was more blunt. Noting that Dimmick’s new management wasn’t in attendance to describe plans for the event, he told commissioners that the frustration with Dimmick has gone beyond the debt.
“Enough is enough – do not let this happen, put it off, you can do it next year,” Jager said. “Don’t let him sell any more tickets, this needs to stop – please.”
But Dimmick said he felt he couldn’t work anything out with the police agencies until he cleared his debts to them and Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard acknowledged that he had instructed Dimmick to that effect.
Dimmick said he hasn’t been holding money back. “I’ve pretty much suffered complete personal financial devastation over the course of this last year,” he said. “I’ve lost my home to foreclosure and stuff like that, so it’s not like I walked off with a bunch of money.”
Girard recommended that Dimmick be given to July 1 to meet the event’s permit requirements and that the attendance be reduced to 9,500 people, down from 14,500.
Commission Chairman Jeffrey C. Smith supported the continuation, citing the 30-day deadline of the permit as well as a more practical consideration. “The only way this applicant is going to pay his debts is if he holds this event,” he said, adding that it’s “unlikely” Dimmick will be able to meet permit requirements but “maybe there’s some miracle there.”
But Commissioner Bruce Emad noted the law enforcers’ concerns that allowing the event to happen could negatively impact public health and safety. Commissioner Ralph Faust made a motion to cancel the event this year but after it was seconded by Emad, Commissioner Dennis Mayo motioned for a continuance to July 1. That motion replaced Faust’s and was seconded by Commissioner Denver Nelson, who said he wanted to see Dimmick’s checks be handed to Downey and Jager.
Girard confirmed that “the checks have exchanged hands” and the continuance was approved, with Faust and Emad dissenting.
Thousands of reggae fans have watched their festival’s engineers fight over its ownership and now, struggle to make it happen. “These are the people that join together to praise peace, love and community,” one regular festival-goer had told commissioners, imploring them not to cancel the event. She described Reggae Rising as “a retreat that takes us away from the reality that’s being argued about in this room.”