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Change would charge events for services

Those who hold events and races in the City of Tonawanda no longer should expect police to block traffic and work security free.

City officials are considering a policy that would require organizers to pay city expenses incurred by the event.

At Tuesday's Council meeting, Mayor Ronald Pilozzi described the new policy as part of the city's effort to recoup overtime costs for its employees.

The city now provides police protection and other services for such events as races or charity walks. Organizers pay only utility costs. The proposed policy would require upfront payment for all of the city's expenses.

"Everybody gets treated the same when they come to City Hall asking for a service," Pilozzi said. "In other words, if you want a service, you have to pay for a service."

For the most part, the new policy will likely be applied across the board, although Council members debated the merits of charging school organizations for events.

"In any school function, you're really just taking money from one pocket to another pocket," Council President Carleton Zeisz said. "It's all under government."

But other Council members disagreed.

"I think you're picking and choosing [events], and you can't get into that," Blake Boyle said.

The policy also affects the city's relationship with Canal Fest. Although the Canal Fest Corp. gives both Tonawanda and North Tonawanda money to help cover expenses during the weeklong event, the city typically spends more in overtime than it receives. If the policy is approved, Zeisz said, it probably would apply to Canal Fest as well, but not until next year, since the city is in the final year of its current contract with the corporation.

Officials estimated a race or charity walk could cost the city about $500 in overtime expenses. That might not seem much, but a year's worth of events adds up, the mayor noted.

"My gut feeling is that we would be surprised how much money we could bring in for this," Pilozzi said, conceding organizations will have mixed feelings about the new policy.

"We're just not in a position where we can pay for these things. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is," Zeisz said.

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