With more festivals and events requesting space on city streets, officials are taking a new approach to recovering some of the cost for added police presence.
Police Chief Tony Gray said the amount of officer overtime has gone up since there have been more events downtown requiring street closures, many of them since alcohol sales were legalized in 2010. No policy has been formalized, but Gray said a scale he and city staff have worked on includes a $500 fee for all-day police coverage for large events that require road closures.
“We want to bring tourism dollars to dollars to Danville, and we want to be event-friendly,” Gray said. “But there are expenses the city and the police department incur.”
In addition to overtime for extra patrol officers, who get $32 per hour in overtime pay, Gray said there are administrative costs because a supervisor must work the event. If alcohol is served, a larger presence is required, including Alcoholic Beverage Control officer Tom Bustle.
In many cases, Gray said traffic control on downtown streets that are actually portions of state and federal highways is not as simple as placing a wooden barricade at busy intersections. Planning for traffic flow to and from Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is often one of the major logistical and safety considerations police have when closing downtown streets.
Danville’s special-event ordinance gives the chief ultimate discretion about granting permits, which until now have required only approval from the chief and a $25 filing fee. Gray said he consulted the city attorney’s office about the possibility of getting some reimbursement for the additional costs, and the ordinance appears to support requiring additional fees when more officer involvement is needed.
The city’s ordinance states if additional police protection for the public assembly is deemed necessary by the chief, he shall inform the applicant. The applicant then has the duty to secure the police protection deemed necessary by the chief at the sole expense of the applicant.
The first large-scale event coming up is the second annual Kentucky State Barbecue Festival, whose organizers are among those who have questioned the additional charge in light of the amount of economic activity generated during the festival. The barbecue festival, scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9, brought what many estimated at more than 25,000 people to Danville over a November weekend last year.
City Manager Ron Scott said the $500 fee actually will cover less than half of the overtime costs for all-day policing during the festival and was lowered because of the festival’s economic benefit to the community. The city also is asking to be named as an insured party on the festival’s insurance policy and on liquor liability insurance required of vendors selling alcohol.
Although he does not want to discourage the uptick in innovative entertainment options, Gray said the hit the police budget takes with overtime and other costs is not completely offset by tax revenues.
“We are trying to be equitable, and this (fee) actually does not capture all our expenses,” said Gray.
For events such as road races that require roads to be closed but do not need an all-day police presence, the cost will be lower. Gray said he is working on a similar scale for even smaller gatherings.