Council tries to find middle ground with festival policing requirements

Additional policing requested for the Summer Sensation Beach Music Festival next month caused a headache for town councillors Monday.

Additional policing requested by the RCMP for the Summer Sensation Beach Music Festival next month caused a headache for town councillors as they tried to find an mutually beneficial middle ground on Monday night.

A change was made recently to the policing deposit required from True Channel Entertainment, organizers of the July 10 and 11 festival at Centennial Park, with the Sylvan Lake RCMP having outlined policing requirements for the event to include 12 RCMP members working on site, eight working off site, several Provincial Parks conservation officers and 20 members of a Strategic Tactical Operations unit.

Organizers were told they’d need to provide a $65,000 deposit to cover the cost of policing, but felt the requirements outlined were over the top for an event of the festival’s nature.

“This is a family type of event,” said Dana Carlson representing True Channel Entertainment. “That is a very large police presence, and you’re now asking for a tactical unit, which would include riot gear. We’re concerned about the perception of it.”

True Channel representatives added that the latest policing requirement was beyond anything they’ve ever seen for a festival, noting the police presence required seemed “very, very excessive” given the festival’s family-friendly musical lineup.

But Town community services director Ron Lebsack said consultations with various RCMP detachments throughout the province, including K Division headquarters in Edmonton, affirmed that the requests outlined were acceptable.

“They’re in agreement that this is the right level of policing for an event like this,” he said. “This is (taking place) in a community, not in a farmer’s field or in the country — every person from this event spills out into the community. That’s what their policing level is based upon.”

Lebsack added that a letter from Sylvan Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Gary Rhodes noted a “lack of confidence in the documents and the planning that’s been done so far” by organizers, resulting in the additional policing request.

“When we look at planning documents in terms of public safety and how that public safety is going to be managed, the RCMP don’t have the confidence in that,” said Lebsack.

Rhodes, according to Lebsack, noted that the policing requirements outlined were non-negotiable and in place to deal with a potential worst-case scenario.

Coun. Jas Payne noted that True Channel’s feelings on what they felt would be adequate level of policing were made irrelevant by the non-negotiable nature of the RCMP’s request, with Mayor Sean McIntyre adding, “the question essentially is who pays.”

Coun. Dale Plante felt the demands were putting councillors in an awkward position.

“We’re being backed into a wall by a recommendation that says take it or leave it,” he said. “I just really feel that this is a little extreme.”

Coun. Christina Lust agreed.

“One of the things that concerns me is that with all the stuff we’ve been doing to encourage events to come to our community, we agree to have this event come forward, and now we’re being put in a really difficult situation because we didn’t have all the information at the time of making that decision,” she said. “It doesn’t make us look like a place that people are going to want to come and have events here as a result of this kind of thing.”

Coun. Graham Parsons rued what he felt was a miscommunication between the parties involved.

“We’re faced with a decision that doesn’t look good either way, and I don’t think we have much choice,” he said. “Somewhere along the line, the lines of communication have not been very good.”

Following a 15-minute recess during which administration met with organizers to discuss the matter further, a decision was arrived at that would see the deposit required of True Channel Entertainment lowered to $50,000, with council adding $15,000 to an Enhanced Policing Fund specifically for the event to make up the remainder.

Coun. Plante said he felt doing so was a responsibility of council.

“One of the mandates our council committed to is having attractions to make it feasible for people to come to this town, and as far as I’m concerned, this is something we’re really looking forward to having,” he said. “I think we need to take responsibility for the miscommunication.”

Coun. Matt Prete was absent from the meeting.

Hedley, Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good are among the festival’s slated musical acts.


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