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Oxford looks at tweaking event permit policy

Nonprofit organizations plan events that occur on Oxford city streets throughout the year, from 5K races that raise money and awareness for a crippling disease to political rallies and marches around the Square.

Each time an event is held on a street that has to be temporarily closed, the Oxford Police Department is on the scene to handle the traffic and provide security. Since it’s often on weekends and extra hands are brought it, that means more overtime pay for officers — good for the officers but a struggle for those responsible for balancing the budget.

OPD Maj. Jeff McCutchen said the department started looking at ways to reduce the amount of overtime officers were receiving last year at the request of the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

“We started looking at our events and how many there are and how long it takes to do them,” he said.

After researching what some other cities do, the city started to implement a fee, where the organization applying for the event permit would pay for the extra officers needed to work the event.

The fee would be based on how many officers were needed and for how long and averaged about $27 an hour.

However, the city started receiving some complaints about when the fee was due, which is when the permit is filed, often several months before the event.

The fee policy was discussed last week before the Board of Aldermen where Alderman Janice Antonow pointed out that some events, like 5 and 10K races, generally don’t generate money until people start registering for the event.

When organizers of Run Oxford’s Great 38 race applied for a permit in January for an October race, they were told their fee would be about $3,000, which was more than the nonprofit running organization could afford since the bulk registration fees wouldn’t start coming in until the summer.

Antonow suggested allowing organizations to pay a smaller deposit when applying for a permit and then being required to pay the rest of the fee 10 days prior to the event.

McCutchen said the deposit seems like a good compromise.

“It gives us enough time to see what we will need for the event and them more time to raise the funds,” McCutchen told the EAGLE Tuesday.

McCutchen said he and OPD administration are working on tweaking the policy to include the deposit and will present it before the aldermen during their March 21 meeting.

“We are also looking at how we can provide the bare minimum of officers while keeping the event safe,” he said. One way is to use “jumping” officers. Instead of having an officer at each intersection, after the race or march passes one intersection, the officer can quickly drive ahead and set up the block at another intersection further down the route.

McCutchen said events like the 5K and 10K races during Double Decker would not be required to pay the permit fee since it’s a city-run event.

King told the EAGLE recently that Run Oxford is happy to work with OPD on their events.

“We’re happy to pay a deposit,” he said. “We know it’s extra work for the officers and we don’t  want to take advantage of their time.”

King said the deposit and balance being paid 10 days before the event would give enough time for most races to get in enough registration fees to pay the balance.

“Our goal is to create big and popular races to do that we need the support of Oxford, so we’ll work with anyone for a successful event,” King said.