GEORGE, Wash. (AP) — A state legislator is proposing a new $1 fee that could be added to tickets at The Gorge Amphitheater to help pay for emergency services on concert weekends.
State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, said the money raised would be split between the hospital in Quincy and fire districts that serve the area.
The Columbia Basin Herald reported that last year, concert goers racked up more than $400,000 in unpaid bills to the Quincy Valley Medical Center.
Manweller said his bill, to be introduced later this year, would allow the Grant County commissioners to impose the surcharge, but not require it.
"It is absolutely unfair to make the Quincy residents pay for the 40,000 kids that come from Seattle and get drunk, fall down and overdose on drugs," Manweller told the newspaper.
The Gorge for more than two decades has been luring major performers and big crowds to sparsely populated Grant County, which is about 120 miles east of Seattle. During some shows, the Gorge draws more than 20,000 patrons, surpassing Moses Lake to become the largest community in Grant County.
Because of the remoteness of the location, many patrons camp at the site, often for several days. The big campground is known for raucous partying.
Last year, the Paradiso Festival drew more than 25,000 people on June 28-29, and more than 70 ended up going to area hospitals, many because of apparent drug overdoses.
At an earlier meeting between medical center staff, concert promoter Live Nation and county commissioners, Gorge General Manager Danny Wilde said a $1 increase to ticket prices would actually be a tax on Live Nation, and would not be passed along to ticket buyers.
"He is 100 percent wrong about that," Manweller said. "The surcharge would be for the ticket buyer, not Live Nation, and my bill would reimburse Live Nation for the administrative fees associated with collecting that money."
Manweller said he wants to ensure that hospital and fire district resources are available for Quincy residents.
"The nightmare scenario is if all of the ambulances are at The Gorge and somebody in Quincy has a heart attack" and they die because there isn't any ambulance service for them, Manweller said.
He doubted an extra dollar surcharge to ticket prices would deter anyone from attending concerts.
"I go to the Dave Matthews concert every year and the ticket is $56, If the ticket is $57, I'm not, not going to go," he said.
Information from: Columbia Basin Herald, http://www.columbiabasinherald.com