GR to Rob Bliss: Want to do event? Pay your debt

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Social events planner Rob Bliss owes the City of Grand Rapids more than $11,000. Organizers of Celebration on the Grand and the Fourth of July celebrations owed the city over $25,000.

Now the city has forgiven the debt of the two organizations, but not Bliss’ debt.

Bliss made a name for himself by coming up with large community events like a zombie walk, a giant pillow fight, launching thousands of paper airplanes during ArtPrize and the world’s largest water slide in downtown Grand Rapids.

Those events, attended by thousands of West Michigan residents, also racked up debt Bliss had with the city. He still owes more than $11,000 according to the Grand Rapids city treasurer.

Recently, Rob Bliss applied for a permit to enter something in ArtPrize. However, the city would not approve it.

“I relayed to him that we could not issue a permit until he began making payments on his debt,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom told 24 Hour News 8.

Bliss wasn’t the only event organizer that owes the city big bucks.

Celebration on the Grand owed the city nearly $10,000 and The Fourth of July organizers owed more than $16,000. That’s $26,000 in debt, but the city commission decided to forgive that debt after the two events combined into one for the summer of 2014.

“They have both struggled in recent years in raising money to put on a special event in this community. They are not funded by government; it is funded by donations,” Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom says big event organizers must cover the costs that the city incurs. Usually, the highest cost is for added police officers, and city and organizers split that cost.

Sundstrom added that by conjoining the two summer celebrations, and only having to pay extra officers for one event, the city of Grand Rapids will save $7,000-$8,000 a year.

As far as Bliss’s debt, “He came in and signed an agreement and has made a couple of payments so far,” Sundstrom told 24 Hour News 8. Bliss has a better chance of getting his permit now that he is paying off the debt.

When asked if he was upset by the way the city was treating him, Rob Bliss told 24 Hour News 8, “I’m not personally upset by it. I’m sure I’m not the only person in Grand Rapids that owes money.”

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