City restaurants have pitched in to cover overtime police costs for two wildly popular summer festivals that mark the beginning and end of the Saratoga racing meet.
Cost of police overtime for Hats off to Saratoga, which traditionally marks the first weekend of the Saratoga meet in July, and Final Stretch Weekend in September is estimated at $3,000, which restaurants have agreed to cover in the first year the city has asked for event organizers to pay their own police costs.
The New York Racing Association, restaurants and hotels spend a total of $34,000 to put on the two festivals, which feature live music at various spots downtown.
“Then we went back to the restaurants and said, ‘We’d like you to increase that support,’” said Joseph Dalton, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the two festivals.
“If we didn’t have the money, we couldn’t pay for the police; if we couldn’t pay for the police, we couldn’t run the festivals.”
Richard Wirth, commissioner of public safety, seeks permission at tonight’s City Council meeting to set a fee schedule for the police overtime involved in the events. So far, he has given event organizers an estimate of the costs for each of their events.
Public safety staff has met with organizers of all the special events in the city that require police overtime. No one has decided to pull their event because of the fee, Wirth said.
“I think they all want to do them,” he said. “They understand the financial aspect [for] the city.”
But the groups don’t have much money either.
The Downtown Business Association has not figured out how it will pay an estimated $4,500 in police costs for the Victorian Streetwalk in November, said Susan Farnsworth, the event coordinator.
Organizers are weighing the pros and cons of closing Broadway versus leaving it open.
Closing the main drag will cost $2,500 plus another $2,000 or more for police staffing. But not closing Broadway could require more police officers to be on hand to keep pedestrians safe, Farnsworth said.
Also, keeping Broadway open would limit the size of the crowd, which has swelled to 22,000 people.
“You can’t have 22,000 people there without the street closing down,” she said.
Years ago, the event was held with Broadway open to vehicle traffic.
“As soon as we closed Broadway, it just gave it room to keep growing.”
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