City wants Queen’s to foot the bill

University should pay 100 per cent of Homecoming police costs, council votes

For Kingston City Council, enough is enough when it comes to Homecoming.

The council passed a motion on Tuesday night notifying Queen’s of its expectation that the University will compensate the city for all policing costs relating to Homecoming weekend.

The motion was passed 11 to two.

The motion, moved by Councillor Steve Garrison, says it expects “that Queen’s University will reimburse 100 per cent of the cost of police services for Homecoming weekend to the City of Kingston.”

After seeing reports released this week, Garrison asked to add an amendment to the motion requiring Queen’s to reimburse the city for other municipally funded services, such as those provided by the fire department and paramedics.

He said the city has become so numb to the events taking place over Homecoming weekend in the Ghetto that the weekend’s events are being deemed a success.

“There are people in the community that are portraying this as somehow a positive thing,” Garrison said.

He said he drove through the Ghetto with his family early on Saturday afternoon.

“I was shocked at the kinds of things that I saw at 1:30 in the afternoon,” he said.

He said he saw people running around who were “barely dressed” and holding bottles of beer—sights which aren’t appropriate for children.

“We’ve essentially been held hostage by the revellers for a number of years,” Garrison said.

“With all due respect to Queen’s … they have not taken full responsibility,” he said. “The only way that you can force people to be 100 per cent responsible for actions … is to make them 100 per cent responsible for the cost of those actions.”

Garrison said it’s time for the University to cancel Homecoming, at least for a couple of years.

Councillor Mark Gerretsen, a Queen’s alumnus, was another supporter of the motion. He said the only thing that changed with this year’s Homecoming was the level of integrated support from the Kingston police department.

“Despite the fact that over 6,000 people gathered in drunken debauchery, Queen’s University is declaring a victory,” Gerretsen said.

Gerretsen said although Kingston’s taxpayers paid for months of preparation for the event, the University is receiving donations “hand over fist” from alumni.

Most Queen’s students who were ticketed for liquor violations are proud, Gerretsen said.

“The majority of them will brag about it to their friends and most likely frame and hang it on their wall,” he said.

“Queen’s University administration must stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

He asked University officials to deliver on their financial responsibility to the city and that Queen’s donors stop donating “immediately.”

“Write to University officials and tell them that enough is enough,” Gerretsen said.

Councillor Rob Matheson, who was also in support of the motion, said Queen’s should cover expenses for student-related policing throughout the school year. He also said the University should have its own security force.

Matheson proposed an amendment asking Queen’s to “pay on a per-call basis any call related to the Queen’s University student housing area.”

The amendment wasn’t adopted.

Mayor Harvey Rosen was one of two council members who didn’t support the motion. The other was Councillor Ed Smith, who said although he doesn’t condone the Aberdeen Street party, the issue is complex and the city should engage Queen’s in a discussion to come to a resolution.

“To blame Queen’s University, or to blame the students completely, is just not accurate,” Smith said.

He said the City received no reimbursement from Queen’s after Homecoming 2005, but when it approached the University for discussion last year, it received $100,000 as compensation.

Patrick Deane, vice-principal (academic), said the University, as well as the Kingston police, is in the process of assessing the costs.

Deane said he doesn’t know when a decision will be made or how much money could be given.

“In a little while we will be in a position to talk about what the impact has been,” he said.

He said the money contributed to the City last year wasn’t intended to be reimbursement of any kind.

“When we made the allocation of money, we said this was in recognition of a partnership that the students and the University had enjoyed with the police,” he said. “It was not intended to be payment for services rendered.” If the University makes a contribution of any kind this year, it will be in the same spirit, Deane said, adding that the city hasn’t approached the University directly.

“We’ve of course had long, ongoing dealings with the police chief and the question of cost has been discussed on a number of occasions,” he said. “We’ve agreed to continue talking about it … but no one has asked for money.”

Deane, who wasn’t present at Tuesday night’s meeting, said he recognizes the motion as a statement of opinion.

“Council members have a right to their opinion on this matter. …They’ve also expressed their opinion in recent weeks about the character of the student body,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a statement of council’s opinion and it’s not something which the University sees as binding or compelling in any particular way.”

Deane said university towns across North America derive enormous financial benefit from the presence of a university and its students.

“It seems entirely reasonable to see that the city should regard the university and policing activities as simply the cost of doing business.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.