City wants University to pay up

Council also creates committee to analyze Aberdeen, propose solutions

AMS President Ethan Rabidoux and Municipal Affairs Commissioner Naomi Lutes spoke to city council on Tuesday night.
AMS President Ethan Rabidoux and Municipal Affairs Commissioner Naomi Lutes spoke to city council on Tuesday night.

Kingston city council is asking the University to pay for the cost of police, fire and ambulance services during the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party on Sept. 24.

The City voted in favour of a motion to do so at their Tuesday night council meeting. Councillors also passed a separate motion to create a committee that will seek ways to stop illegal behaviours associated with the Aberdeen party and in Sydenham district—the area surrounding and including the University and the Ghetto.

“There has to be some accountability here,” Kevin George, councillor for the Loyalist-Cataraqui district, told the Journal. “As an elected official I feel I have a responsibility to the ratepayers in the city of Kingston, and they are saying to me that they feel Queen’s should be compensating the city in some fashion.”

George said the motion requests that the University cover costs incurred that went above and beyond what the city initially anticipated would be spent that night. He said he wasn’t sure how much of those costs the institution should pay, although the motion states that the City’s chief administrative officer should work with the chief of police, fire chief and director of emergency services of Frontenac County seek compensation “in an amount equal to that expended.”

But George said that because the party took place off campus, the University is not legally responsible for these costs. He added the City recognizes emergency services have an obligation to respond when called.

“[But] I personally feel it would be nice if Queen’s would ... work out some compensation,” George said.

Kingston Police previously told the Journal their overtime costs for the night would total at least $60,000. After last year’s Aberdeen party, which cost the police about $35,000 in overtime, the University contributed $6,500 to the force.

Assistant Fire Chief Robert Kidd said Fire and Rescue didn’t initially plan to request compensation for their services that night and haven’t yet received direction on whether the motion will change this.

“We’ll be receiving direction from council and reporting back,” he said.

He said Fire and Rescue incurred extra staff costs of approximately $5,000 that night.

Paul Charbonneau, director of emergency services of Frontenac County, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Just doing what we’re doing is sending a message out to the student body and any others who participated in [what occurred on Aberdeen],” George said. “Maybe they’ll think a little better about what they do in the future and the impact it has on the community as a whole.”

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the University is open to discussions about making a financial contribution.

“When this issue was raised, even before Homecoming, Vice-Principal [George] Hood indicated that once it was all over, we would do an analysis of what happened and talk to the stakeholders and try and work out what we wished to do in response,” he said. “The University will consider [the motion] along with its various other actions.”

Deane added that no University representatives were present at the council meeting because they have “many avenues” for discussing business with the city.

Floyd Patterson, councillor for the Sydenham district, moved the motion for council to create a committee that will meet regularly to keep the city informed about what the University will do to prevent this year’s problems from recurring.

It will consist of up to eight members, including council members, senior police officers and University and AMS representatives.

The committee will request regular reports from the University and the AMS, which must focus on their plans to adopt more effective control of students’ activities, especially to help municipal authorities prevent the illegal blocking of public streets and conduct that endangers the safety of the community.

“I think council has recognized that this Queen’s function has migrated into the public streets and shown that it can become dangerous to public safety and it attracts non-Queen’s people to the crowd,” Patterson told the Journal. “Therefore, this kind of function has gotten beyond the capacity of the University to control it and we’ve allowed it to get beyond our capacity as municipal authorities—we’ve got to stop doing that.

“As soon as something is happening in the public street, the municipal authorities have to find a way to control it.”

Deane said the University welcomes the motion as another good mechanism for dealing with what occurred.

“The University has already indicated to the city it’s very keen to be involved in [the committee], and we will certainly cooperate with everybody in the interest of a solution to this problem,” he said.

Before the motions were discussed, AMS President Ethan Rabidoux and AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Naomi Lutes appealed to councillors during the presentation part of the meeting.

“We in the Alma Mater Society totally support the notion of establishing a committee and want to become active participants on the committee to examine the issues,” Rabidoux told council. “Having said that, we have some concerns.”

Rabidoux proposed three amendments, two of which were later adopted by council.

“Our deepest desire is to see that reason will triumph over passion,” he told the group.

Rabidoux told the Journal the AMS was most concerned about one particular clause, which council agreed to replace.

The original clause could have opened the door for the Kingston Police Force to “adopt more effective methods of maintaining public order ... adequate to control crowds.”

“We were afraid that the wording proposed some solutions before the problems were identified,” he said.

The new clause stipulates that “upon examination of the issues and events surrounding Homecoming 2005, the committee make recommendations in order for the city of Kingston to adopt more effective strategies and methods of maintaining public order.”

Rabidoux said he thought debate over the motion was reasonable and rational.

“I was very happy first with the fact that they adopted [most of] our proposed motions,” he said.

“It made the spirit of the motion much more accommodating and made sure the committee now has the ability to go ahead and investigate and propose any recommendations—however popular or unpopular they may be—so everything is on the table now.”

Rabidoux said the new committee will be different from the Principal’s Task Force on Community Relations, because it will focus solely on Homecoming.

The committee that organized the Homecoming concert as a means of preventing a large-scale street party didn’t actually look at what the problems were, he said.

“All that committee did was propose solutions,” Rabidoux said. “I’m very hopeful that this committee can actually do what previous committees have not been able to do, and that’s solve the problem, because it’ll actually look at the root causes.”

The AMS will also soon form its own student committee to examine the Homecoming issues from students’ perspectives, Rabidoux said.

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