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City and police at odds over fees charged to festivals

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton Police Services officials say the costs they bill the Ancaster Heritage Days festival is comparable to what other police organizations across Ontario charge for similar events.

In a report provided to the grants subcommittee Feb. 6, the police services reviewed the costs charged for their service to a number of festivals and all Santa Claus parades, and determined they were cost-competitive with Durham, York, Windsor, Niagara, Toronto and Peel regions.

Police officials stated the costs “have not increased considerably” over the past five years. Instead, they blame the municipality on the rising costs festival and event organizers have been struggling to pay over the last few years. 

When the city changed how it provided funding to organizers through its Event Road Closure Service, most of the costs were dumped onto volunteer organizers and the city funding didn’t cover the entire new costs. Police said adding the HST has also contributed to the higher service cost of their services that volunteer organizers have to pay. 

“Prior to this transition, the City of Hamilton paid the events in full for policing costs and was tax exempt,” stated the police.

In 2013, the Ancaster Heritage Festival paid $4,665.49 to the police to oversee the festival. The police provided one dispatcher, a sergeant, 10 constables and vehicles. The bill is about $1,201.03 less than the 2011 police bill, which was $5,866.52. The police services cost for 2010 was $4,444.64, in 2009 it was $4,192.97. There was no parade in 2012 due to the construction on Wilson Street.

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The festival also paid $3,700 to hire a company to close the road for the parade, a new requirement under city guidelines.

Wendi VanExan, co-chair of the festival, said organizers have recently submitted the required SEAT (Special Events Advisory Team) application to the city for this year’s funding.

“To date we have received no information from the city regarding policing costs,” she said. “We will not know what the city grant will be until later in the spring.”

Libby Knapp, co-chair, said organizers expect the policing costs to be the same this year as it was for 2013.

The police report, which was prompted by complaints from councillors last April after hearing from volunteer organizers who felt burdened by the rising policing costs, caused some consternation among city staff and councillors. 

“Some of the numbers didn’t have clarity,” said Dundas councillor Russ Powers. “We want to sit down with the police so we can understand the rationale.” 

The disagreement involved charging HST to volunteer organizers, which the city eventually gets back. In addition, the police report looked at the costs for the Festival of Friends, but that organization receives funding from the city’s boards and agencies and not from the Community Partnership Program, which is where festivals and volunteer organizers get most of their funding.

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson urged city staff to provide clear and stable funding to volunteer organizers. 

“We keep changing it,” said Ferguson, who is chair of the Hamilton Police Services Board. “Organizers are confused. We need to work with the police department to make sure it comes back.”

Knapp said the funding the organization received last year from the city covered the majority of the event’s expenses.

“Our biggest concern is that we have incurred costs to engage outside resources for road closure services previously provided by the city and these costs are concerning us,” she said.

 
 

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