City councillors have agreed to rebate some $200,000 back to festivals to cover off climbing expenses that they’ve paid this year. More rebates are in the works for 2017 and 2018 however council will have to work that into the upcoming budget talks.
“That’s really good. I couldn’t be happier,” said Jim Gibbon from the Heritage Festival, one of five festival organizers that presented rapidly escalating city costs to members of council’s Community and Public Services Committee. “The numbers we’re looking at right now, they’re recommending just over $85,000 back just to Heritage Festival alone.”
Civic Services, a branch of the city charges organizations like festivals, groups that close traffic to stage walks and even community leagues who host fire works displays, collects the money to cover police, traffic and transit costs. Gibbon said they’ve been working with the festivals to see how things can be stream lined.
“We’d just use it to pay their bill. So it’s really they’re just subsidizing their own bill,” Gibbon said of the $85,000 lost this past August which he said is good compared to losing nearly $200,000 in 2015.
Paul Lucas, of the Taste of Edmonton, but representing several of the 38 festivals both big and small, laid out some statistics to the councillors to show what the festival scene means to economic impact on Edmonton.
“Two-point-eight million people attend 24 festivals, $26 million in combined operating budgets, we produce 233 event days with 48.5 full time staff,” Lucas said. Councillors were also given examples like this past weekend’s All is Bright event put on, on 124th street. It’s bill from civic services went from $650 in 2015 to $9,700 this year councillors were told.
“Costs just keep going up,” Lucas said. “Labour keeps going up and our funding doesn’t go up. Sponsorship is brutal. It’s a struggle. It’s a struggle for everybody.”
Gibbon said he’s heard from other cities about a marshal type system where people who’d help with traffic control would get trained and certified, and do the job for half of the cost of what an EPS constable would get paid, $50 compared to over $120 per hour.
“In a lot of those cases it’s police who just volunteer. It’s community outreach. Especially with an organization like ours, it’s wonderful outreach possibilities. But I’m willing to look at anything. What’s really important is working hard to help us so it’s nice. There’s really no bad guys in this. Everybody’s a good guy right now.”
Mayor Don Iveson said the two year solution through 2018 is a stop gap, however he called on the festival organizers to help city council draw the line on where a subsidy should end, because he said it’s unfair to the taxpayer to have them foot the bill for everything.
“It’s like the old potato chip commercial, if we do it for you I have to give one to everybody else.”