Board discusses which groups should pay for traffic control

By Tim Weideman

Officer overtime paid for by the Riley County Police Department for event traffic control is a hefty fee that becomes taxpayers’ responsibility.

Over the past year, 126 RCPD patrol officers have put in 47 hours of extra work for 19 events, costing the department more than $390,000, according to figures shared Monday during the Riley County Law Enforcement Agency Board meeting.

“That’s a pretty staggering number and that will all come out of our overtime budget,” RCPD Assistant Director John Doehling told the board. “As you are well aware of, we are over budget on that category just about every year.”

So, the question was brought before the board: Should the department charge for its services to help out during special events?

Police board members decided to put off a decision until more information can be gathered, but they still discussed the topic.

Most events aren’t charged for traffic control, RCPD Director Brad Schoen said. But last year, the department began entering into contracts with certain groups to cover officers’ overtime.

Also, the department has for a few years been paid for its services for Kansas State University football games, women’s and men’s basketball games and Country Stampede.

Schoen told the board that the problem’s going to be how to figure out what other groups should be charged.

“You’re talking about a lot of, in some cases, non-profits who are doing things for charitable reasons,” he said. “So, I have some sympathy for those.”

Pat Meglares, president of the Manhattan Cross Country Club, was one of a couple people who spoke on Monday for those smaller groups. He said his club is a nonprofit and was started as a grassroots organization.

Since 2008, through a project with Body First Wellness Center, Meglares said the club has donated $36,000 to local schools.

“We’re donating everything we do to the community,” he said of his events.

Another event Meglares is involved with — the Poyntz Avenue Mile — was held June 14 and

benefited the Manhattan High School cross country team.

The bill for RCPD support was $500. Meglares said that’s a lot of money that could have gone toward the team.

“It means that they’re able to outfit their entire team, they’re able to feed those kids on out-of-town trips, as opposed to making more sandwiches, which is OK, too,” Melgares said. “But $500 is a lot to a group like that when you’re non-profit or you’re school-based.”

Melgares suggested some events may be moved to other counties that won’t charge for police services.

“Pott County, right now, has indicated to us that marathon that we held this past year was just part of their job,” Melgares said.

The list of events that weren’t charged shared on Monday included parades, some road races, Little Apple New Year’s Eve and Thunder Over Manhattan.

Board member and Manhattan Mayor Wynn Butler said he felt some of the “traditional parades” shouldn’t be charged because they’re not marketing a specific business.

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