You play, you pay

Recovering policing costs from special events such as Sturgis North is the intent of a new bylaw that city council will be considering at its next council meeting.

Recovering policing costs from special events such as Sturgis North is the intent of a new bylaw that city council will be considering at its next council meeting.

Questions raised regarding the proposed bylaw included whether it should apply to both non-profit and for-profit groups, and whether the threshold of 5,000 people attending an event – the level that would trigger the bylaw – is high enough.

Council directed staff in October to investigate the recovery of policing costs after Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane wrote to council, warning of financial pressures looming.

He advised council that the city would be 100 per cent responsible for policing costs in 2011 associated with the Roots and Blues festival and the proposed Sturgis North motorcycle rally and music event, as opposed to the 90 per cent city, 10 per cent province, cost-sharing for general policing. In his October letter, Keane said Kelowna RCMP received $36,000 from the City of Kelowna to police its 2010 three-day music festival, Centre of Gravity, and, in 2009, Merritt RCMP received $126,500 to police the Merritt Mountain Music Festival.

The proposed bylaw includes an application fee of $800 and proof of a minimum of $10 million of public liability and property insurance. Conditions may be imposed on the permit relating to matters such as crowd and litter control, sale and consumption of alcohol, notification of neighbours and others. Permit holders would be responsible for all ‘event services’ costs, which include providing policing, public works (including restoration of public property) and firefighting services.

At Monday’s meeting of the city’s development and planning services committee, Coun. Alan Harrison said he would like the proposed bylaw to be amended so that it applies only to for-profit groups.

“My concern is with private, for-profit events and having to spend taxpayers’ money to police them,” he said, adding that he’s not interested in the Relay for Life or the fall fair, for instance, having to go through bureaucracy and expense.

Regarding Sturgis North, he said he’s heard that more than 50,000 people, possibly up to 100,000, might be attending.

Coun. Ivan Idzan said even before Sturgis North was proposed, the policing costs for the Roots and Blues Festival, run by the non-profit folk music society, had drawn attention. Keane estimated that an additional two to four officers are needed when the festival is on, not so much within the grounds, but in the areas surrounding them.

“If the fall fair grew to the size of the Armstrong IPE, the community would question absorbing costs,” said Idzan. “I think raising the threshold (rather than focusing on for-profit groups) is a wiser course of action.”

Coun. Kevin Flynn also suggested the possibility of raising threshold numbers. He voiced concerns about the possibility of creating a disincentive for people planning events that would benefit businesses, as well as concerns about policing costs and accountability.

Couns. Harrison and Chad Eliason voted for an amendment to remove non-profits from the bylaw, but the motion was defeated. Mayor Marty Bootsma was absent. Council then voted unanimously to send the bylaw to the next council meeting for discussion and first reading. Harrison said he would be bringing back his proposed amendment then.

Chief administrative officer Carl Bannister said the bylaw must be passed quickly in order to give direction to the RCMP and fire department.

City staff recommended that council hold a public consultation meeting regarding the proposed bylaw on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m., during the regular council meeting.

*See sidebar story: Sturgis North security plan misses deadline