13th World opening delayed amid questions

13th World opening delayed amid questions

Mayor: Halloween event should be ready this weekend

CUMBERLAND – Mayor Bill Murray called off last Saturday’s opening night of 13th World 2017 after Town Councilor Tom Kane raised questions about permitting and insurance for the event.

Kane questioned both a lack of an entertainment license for 13th World (previously the town-run Haunted Hill), as well as whether the company now running the Halloween entertainment haunt at Diamond Hill Park had an insurance policy that covers them and sufficiently protects the town. He said there was also no approval from the police or fire chief.

“It would be my recommendation that they should not be allowed to operate until they are in possession of a sufficient insurance policy,” he wrote to Murray last Friday.

After Kane’s email, the mayor produced an insurance plan for the event last Friday.

Murray told The Breeze he decided to cancel the event out of an abundance of caution and placed Kane’s requested items on the agenda for the council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

He said 13th World should be up and running for a new opening night of this Friday, Oct. 6, at dusk.

“It’s nothing I see as serious, but we wanted to look into them and make sure,” he said.

The new operators of 13th World posted on their Facebook page that last Saturday’s original opening night was canceled due to weather.

Murray said he wasn’t even aware last Thursday that 13th World was opening up last Saturday, and was notified of the opening through Kane’s email last Friday.

The decision to call the event off came down mostly to an issue of interpretation of whether the company running the event needed an entertainment license, said Murray.

“I had to make a decision not to go into it and have a problem,” he said.

The operators of 13th World, Rich Vaillant and Zeke Fortier, did not respond to a request for comment this week. Murray said the attraction should now be open weekends through the rest of October.

Murray said he doesn’t anticipate Vaillant and Fortier trying to get a portion of their $15,000 rental fee back due to last weekend’s cancellation.

The mayor, in an email response to Kane’s concerns last week, said 13th World didn’t need approval because it was covered under the Diamond Hill Park Management Plan adopted by the council. Kane responded that he didn’t see 13th World listed under the events in the management plan. The town-run Haunted Hill is there, he said, but 13th World, now run by a for-profit company, is not and needs approval.

Wednesday’s council meeting promised to produce some fireworks after Kane sent a letter to Council President Peter Bradley questioning Murray’s authority to hand over Haunted Hill operations to private vendors this year without council approval. Both the signing of a contract with Fortier and Vaillant and Murray’s plan to sell Haunted Hill gear to the operators “directly defy the town charter and code of ordinances,” said Kane.

“The town has entered into unapproved contracts that include the leasing of town-owned property, the storage of event items in trailers on said town property, and the sale of town property, all of which are connected to Haunted Hill and its operations,” he wrote. “Contracts of this nature, and all others, require the approval of Town Council before authorization.”

No legal contract exists, Kane maintains, because Murray wasn’t empowered to enter into one.

Murray counters that the document signed by town officials and 13th World operators was actually an agreement, not a contract. The rental pact was similar to any other agreement the town signs with event operators in Diamond Hill Park, he said, and didn’t need council authority.

The Valley Breeze reported last week that the town had handed operations of Haunted Hill over to longtime paid staffers Fortier and Vaillant, giving up approximately $40,000 in profits in exchange for not having to take responsibility for running the event and tracking funds.