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Council nixes plan to charge large events with policing costs

City council has rejected a proposal to charge large community events for policing costs.

The plan called for large events, like Cariboo Rocks the North, to be charged $115 per hour per police officer for attending the event. Had the fee been in place in 2018, Cariboo Rocks the North would have been hit with a bill of about $11,000, the finance and audit committee heard in December.

Coun. Kyle Sampson, who organizes Cariboo Rocks the North, declared a conflict of interest when the matter came before council Monday. The issue came before council earlier this year and council had directed staff to take a look at the impact on community events. That updated look wasn’t good enough for council.

“I didn’t support this the first time,” said Coun. Terri McConnachie. “With the arrival of this report, it just hasn’t changed my mind. Adding a new line item for an expense to event … it just doesn’t sit well with me. I think it would be a detriment to the events we host in the city.”

McConnacie said that may change in the future, but currently, she felt, the added cost would hurt local events.

Part of the issue when the matter came before council earlier this year was the lack of clear definition of which events, other than Cariboo Rocks the North, would be impacted. RCMP Insp. Shaun Wright told the finance and audit committee last fall that the RCMP decided on its own to have a continual police presence at Cariboo Rocks the North and that officers were brought in on overtime to attend.

Coun. Brian Skakun said the bylaw could quadruple security costs for some events.

“They get security at these events and it’s adequate,” he said. “If the RCMP are needed, they’re called in. If the RCMP are called in for a break-in at a house or business, that business or that house isn’t charged separately. For some of the big events it could cost $10,000-$15,000.”

Cori Ramsay said the plan will hurt local businesses, contrary to city’s own sustainable finance guidelines.

“I think it’s important to identify that this is a burden to businesses,” she said. “Businesses have already identified that this will be the difference between them being able to run an event.”

She said that while the city could gain a few dollars, but lose a lot more should events be cancelled because of the tax and added that it will impact non-profit groups as well.

Coun. Garth Frizzell was  the lone dissenting voice. He said the city is subsidizing events by picking up the tab for policing costs, as it is billed as overtime to the city.

“Instead of being borne by the event that profits, it is being borne by the taxpayers, some of whom don’t go to that event,” he said.

Coun. Frank Everitt said he struggled with the proposal, but said he wouldn’t support the plan.

The bylaw to charge policing costs to large events was defeated.

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