By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
Organizers of public events in Sharon may have to help the city recover some of its costs in supporting them.
At a council work session Thursday, Council President Ed Palanski said the city has to find ways to be paid for the time police and other employees devote to such events as the Small Ships Revue, WaterFire and other activities that draw crowds downtown.
“We want our merchants to be successful,” Palanski said, “but the city can’t afford the costs we’ve been paying for public safety services.”
Asked to outline the cost of overtime, Police Chief Mike Menster cited figures tied to the Small Ships Revue held every year on the Friday before Fourth of July.
“Over five years, we’ve averaged $2,800 in overtime from the afternoon through that night,” he said. “It’s mandatory for everybody to be available to work.”
Because of the rowdy crowd attracted to the event sponsored by Quaker Steak and Lube, police get help with crowd control from Southwest Mercer County Regional police, Mercer County sheriff, juvenile and adult probation and Sharpsville police who don’t charge Sharon for the service, Menster said.
Fire Chief Terry Whalen estimated his cost at about $600 or $700 to have a boat in the river for safety during the flotilla. Brookfield Fire Department sends a boat and a crew without charging for their service, he said.
Geri Ibanez, a jewelry maker whose retail store is at 154 E. State St., said policing costs are only part of the problem with Small Ships.
“I close my store because of the crowd it draws,” she said. “It’s a totally different atmosphere than WaterFire. It creates a negative view of Downtown Sharon.”
Ibanez also criticized the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration that begins with breakfast menu offerings and – for many – lots of alcohol.
Menster agreed that drinking associated with Small Ships and St. Patrick’s Day pose a different challenge than the crowd control associated with WaterFire or other outdoors events such as Night of Lights or Small Business Saturday.
There is no particular law enforcement problem with those as there often is with “intoxicated people and fights that we see with Small Ships,” he said.
“I can tell you that on St. Patrick’s Day, we usually have a full jail by 11 o’clock in the morning,” Menster added.
Palanski said special permits with fees might be part of the answer and asked City Manager Scott Andrejchak to look further into the issue.
“We have reviewed Erie’s and Pittsburgh’s permits so it’s just a matter of whether council wants to adopt one,” Andrejchak said. “We could do that as long as we give it a good legal review and come up with an ordinance that doesn’t inhibit events but recovers costs. It’s up to council to decide whether they want to put one together in the next month or two.”