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Buffalo Common Council members may seek fees for event police coverage from organizers, promoters

Some Buffalo Common Council members agree there should be reimbursement for the city and its necessary use of first responders.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo City Hall is buzzing right now with lots of discussion on Mayor Brown's budget and the proposed tax hikes and fees. That in turn is being met with a request to find more revenue for the city and cover overtime costs for police and fire. 

All this may have some consequence in the future if you attend a concert or hockey game or some other event in downtown Buffalo, especially if you live outside the city.

Plenty of traffic in downtown Buffalo for a sporting event, concert, or something else is usually something city leaders like to see. But now with the quest for extra revenue in tougher, tighter times to come at City Hall is leading to talk like this in a Monday budget discussion by Council President Darius Pridgen: "I'm mostly concerned about for-profit events where people are making millions of dollars in a year and contributing nothing to our coffers."

Pridgen is speaking about concert promoters, and for-profit event organizers, and the cost of Buffalo Police and sometimes firefighters. They must handle traffic details or other duties for sporting events, concerts, or other events at the KeyBank Center, Canalside, or elsewhere.

Some Council members agree there should be reimbursement for the city and its necessary use of first responders.

University District Councilman Rasheed N.C. Wyatt points out: "Other cities and municipalities are doing it, why aren't we? We should make sure that the taxpayers of the City of Buffalo are getting every nickel, and their bang for their buck. If they're paying taxes, they should get a benefit. If they're not here paying taxes, you don't get a benefit. You have to pay the fees that others pay."

While Council members have not yet used the words surcharge or extra fees, presumably that's a reference to those living in the suburbs, out-of-town visitors, and even those from Canada. 

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said: "We have to police areas where there's and event that draws a lot of traffic. You know the arena, the downtown sporting events, and more than just sporting, there's other events that occur. There's traffic posts that must be manned so that we can control traffic and assist people with crossing."

Gramaglia added that he is doing his own survey.

"I'm looking into other departments across the country — other medium, large-size cities, major cities that have venues, arenas, stadiums — to find out what their staffing is, how they're staffing it, and are there reimbursements by those teams?"

Gramaglia says six of the nine police departments responded that they do indeed get reimbursed for traffic details at significant downtown events. 

This information is being shared with the Brown Administration. Also, city police do get a fee for protection of "moving events" such as parades or races like marathons, but again not staged or static events like a concert or game.

Fire Officials say charging vendors for fire and ems services might bring an additional $300,000 to help offset overtime costs. Million of dollars in overtime for city departments is a basic element in these discussions.  

Any possibility of a city fee for such events would probably not be included in the current city budget which must be approved by Council in the coming week.  


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