Police question traffic control costs

To what extent should taxpayers pay for traffic control at profit-making public events?

That will be one of the issues Township staff will discuss with Mitchell Hudson, race director of the Fort Langley Historic Half Marathon.

For the past five years, RCMP auxiliary officers have helped with traffic control. However, Supt. Derek Cooke of Langley RCMP, questions the fairness of taxpayers paying for police to carry out traffic and crowd control duties.

There are many individuals, groups and organization which hold worthwhile events, often raising money for charity, but Cooke said that the RCMP “does not have the capacity to provide policing service to every good cause that asks.”

Were police to continuing doing so, “it would beg the question of where we draw the line on policing these events at the expense of taxpayers,” Cooke wrote in a letter to the mayors and chief administrators of the Township and City.

He said that the detachment expects to continue policing events such as Canada Day celebrations.

“It remains my position, however, that it is not appropriate to take on the responsibility of providing enhanced police services for such events unless they are supported/co-ordinated by the City or Township,” he wrote.

Cooke noted that there are private companies which organizers can hire for events not sanctioned by the City and Township.

Hudson told council that while the Fort Langley Half Marathon, which will be held on Feb. 20, is for-profit, some proceeds are given to charity.

To ease traffic congestion, Hudson has been asked to stagger the start times for competitors. He said such a start “takes the ‘race’ out of the event.” He asked for an 8 a.m. race start, one hour earlier than usual, so that runners begin racing when there is less traffic on the road.

Councillor Kim Richter urged council to approve the traffic control costs this year “but make it quite clear that this is not going to happen again.”

Council was not as keen. Councillor Bob Long warned about setting a precedent, and suggested that the race organizers are going to have to find the money for traffic control duties.

“I don’t think that this group has exhausted their possibilities,” Councillor Charlie Fox said, suggesting that the organizers discuss planning with the Fort Langley BIA.

Councillors noted that the race brings sports tourism dollars to the community, a point which Hudson emphasized in his presentation.

“We subsidize a lot of sports in this community (and) this is just another sport,” Richter said. “I feel that this company has been put in a bad position on short notice.”

“That council has got involved at this point is a mistake,” Councillor Mel Kositsky said.

A motion to reject Hudson’s plea for help was rejected, and the matter was referred to staff for discussion with him.

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