Queen’s, city prepare for Homecoming

Street safety a top priority, AMS says

On Oct. 14, 2007, an estimated 4,000 to 6,500 people flocked to Aberdeen Street for the annual unsanctioned street party.
On Oct. 14, 2007, an estimated 4,000 to 6,500 people flocked to Aberdeen Street for the annual unsanctioned street party.
Journal File Photo

With Homecoming 2008 fast approaching, the AMS, the police and the University administration are gearing up for another gruelling weekend.

Insp. Brian Cookman of the Kingston Police told the Journal police officers from the OPP will come in to help maintain order on Aberdeen Street on the Saturday night of Homecoming.

Cookman said the cost of policing the event won’t be determined until after Homecoming is over.

“We’ve advised the board last year … what our project costs might be, but until the event is concluded we won’t have an amount.”

In 2007 Homecoming weekend cost the Kingston police approximately $257,000. In December 2007, Queen’s paid the police force a goodwill gesture of $175,000 in what former principal Karen Hitchcock called “a donation, not a payment.”

For 2006 Homecoming weekend, which cost approximately $212,000, Queen’s donated $100,000.

Cookman said the turmoil on Aberdeen Street every year can’t be blamed solely on Queen’s students.

“What I hope for is that the people that are coming to Kingston are coming for Homecoming,” he said. “It’s only this small percentage of people that are on the streets that are causing the mayhem.”

The Kingston police are part of the Aberdeen Working Group which also includes members from the AMS and Queen’s administration.

Patrick Deane, Queen’s vice-principal (academic) said the Aberdeen Working Group exists to support the Homecoming strategy outlined by the AMS.

“We support the AMS in their approach to keep the street safe,” he said. “It is a similar strategy to the one last year focusing on safety of the street, public safety and the safety of private property.”

The working group also helps in the organization of AMS initiatives, Deane said.

“The AMS works with Red Hat volunteers to distribute cups, water and first aid. In support of that, the working group discusses timing, and the organization of opening and closing the street,” he said. “The working group has been building on partnerships from last year with the city and police.”

AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye said the Aberdeen Working Group has served as an umbrella for different organizations which are responsible for the safety and success of Homecoming.

The group, whose mandate is to eliminate the street party completely by Homecoming 2009, advocated for the closure of Aberdeen Street the night of Sept. 27, a decision that was carried in an 8-2 vote by Kingston’s city council in June.

“Aside from the decision to request a street closing or coming up with a communication strategy, [the Aberdeen Working Group] served to roundtable what we’ve been doing,” Tye said.

The Saturday night of Homecoming will see the return of the Red Hat volunteers, Tye said, adding that they have been present at Homecoming for the past two years.

Tye said the volunteers will help keep the street clean and safe over the course of Homecoming.

“The volunteers will give out cups and water in exchange for glass bottles,” he said.

For the next week, Tye said he will be working with the City to solidify the AMS’s plans for Homecoming.

“In the next week, we’ll be focusing on logistics,” he said. “This means making sure everything is ordered—tents are in the right spots, first aid is organized and supplied.”

“One thing that is happening on Wednesday is we’re going out with city property inspectors to give people advice about hazards, vehicle parking and what’s available for them,” he said. “There are people living on Aberdeen for the first time—they want to know what to expect.”

AMS President Talia Radcliffe said the AMS’s main objective is for this year’s Homecoming to be a safe event.

She said the expenses incurred by the Aberdeen Street party have been a point of conflict between Kingston residents and the University.

“Many different residents don’t quite understand why they have to pay. … As far as we’re concerned; Queen’s students are taxpayers as well,” she said. “We can’t block the buses coming into town; we can’t board the high school students into their houses; we can’t stop people from coming into the streets.”

Radcliffe said the AMS’s approach to Homecoming hasn’t changed much since last year.

“I don’t think any major changes in plans or different plans have been proposed,” she said.

“We’re trying to remind people how boring Aberdeen actually is. … There’s nothing to do except stand around and lose your friends.”

—With files from Jane Switzer

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