Queen’s asked to contribute to Homecoming bill

University to meet with police to discuss the weekend’s costs

The University has agreed to meet with the Police Services Board after the board announced at a meeting Thursday night that Kingston Police spent $352,740 patrolling the Ghetto and keeping the peace on Homecoming weekend.

“It’s a very expensive event to supervise a party—it’s a lot of money,” said Carol Allison-Burra, chairperson of the Police Services Board. “It’s about public safety, the safety of the students ... as well as the safety of the officers.”

Kingston Police used 84 OPP officers and a three-member Toronto Police video surveillance unit during the weekend. An estimated total of 200 police officers made 88 arrests.

Allison-Burra said she thinks the University should take responsibility for an event associated with Queen’s.

“There’s not a party of that magnitude in any other part of the city at any time of the year,” she said. “I think it’s very hard for Queen’s to say it isn’t associated with that ... I don’t buy the argument that it is not a Queen’s problem. I think, de facto, it is a Queen’s problem.

But that doesn’t mean that Queens is going to change because I think that or because other people in the community think that.”

Two years ago, the University paid the police $6,400 following a street party during Homecoming weekend.

Last year, the board asked the University for $84,000 to pay for police costs during the Sept. 24 street party.

The University refused.

Allison-Burra said this year’s talk is meant to provide more dialogue than last year’s scenario.

“Last year, a bill was sent to the principal of the University with regards to the extra expenses, and we decided this year that we would prefer to sit down in a kind of informal chat with University officials, that the board would talk about the costs of Homecoming to the community in terms of the policing costs and discuss what, if anything, we can do with regard to those costs,” she said.

Many Kingston community members are unhappy with the continuation of the Aberdeen Street party, Allison-Burra said.

“The taxpayers in the community are very alarmed,” she said. “The costs keep going up and the numbers keep going up. The residents are certainly not happy.”

Allison-Burra said she appreciates the work the University, the AMS, the police and the community have contributed to make Homecoming as safe as possible, but said there are too many risks involved in the street party’s continuation.

“Everybody has bent over backwards to make it as safe and as positive an event as possible for 2006, and certainly a much better event than 2005,” she said. “I just don’t think you can continue to have that large a gathering and not have something run amok again.”

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the upcoming meeting with the Police Services Board is one the administration would have wanted to have regardless, in order to debrief following Homecoming.

“We had an extremely good partnership with the city ... We’re continuing with that spirit of partnership,” he said. “We’re going to meet as we would have in any case and we’ll try to see what kind of agreement we can come up with.”

Deane pointed out that other groups, including the University and the AMS, invested money into making Homecoming safer.

“We’ve all had unusual costs, and those costs do go to maximizing safety at an event none of us strictly endorses.”

Deane said the administration appreciates that the board has asked to meet with them, rather than simply sending them a bill.

Deane said arguing about what group is responsible for the street party is “thoughtless discussion,” and the significant numbers of out-of-town and non-student partiers underscores that the University cannot be held accountable for the event.

“The AMS can no more control who goes onto that street than the University, who can no more control it than the city,” he said. “It would be a healthy thing for the city of Kingston to realize it has custody of a problem event ... it’s certainly not the problem of the police or the problem of the University.”

Deane said Kingston taxpayers who are angry at the size of the Homecoming bill should consider the economic benefits the University brings to the city the rest of the year, and the benefit of the approximately 7,000 “legitimate” Homecoming guests.

Deane said it’s too early to say whether the administration will pay part of the cost incurred during the event.

“To some extent, we’ll go into discussion with the police and the city with an open mind.”

AMS President James Macmillan said the issue of whether the University should pay is a very difficult question, and one that the AMS is going to largely stay out of.

“I understand why they feel that the University should pay,” he said. “There’s lots of people on both sides of the argument.”

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