Tonawanda News — After months of disagreement between Canal Fest Inc. and the City of Tonawanda Common Council, Larry Denef, the corporation’s president, signed the contract for the event Wednesday evening.
In April, the Common Council passed a resolution changing the closing time of the event from 11 p.m., as it has been in past years, to 10 p.m. Despite the reduction of hours, the council requested the same amount of money as it has in the past — angering Canal Fest organizers who thought the decrease in hours should be matched with a smaller monetary amount.
“We did have a discussion about the reduction of hours at our meeting Wednesday before signing the contract,” Randy Fahs, the secretary for Canal Fest Inc. said. “But the board did vote unanimously to approve paying the city the $17,000.”
Despite the last minute approval of the agreement, Common Council President Carleton Zeisz said he wasn’t concerned about the event.
“I assumed they would sign the contract because the event starts Sunday and all the planning has been done,” Zeisz said. “It would be very difficult not to move ahead at this point.”
Zeisz also said the $17,000 largely accounts for police overtime during the event and because the event will still be going on until 11 p.m. in North Tonawanda, the police will still need to have a presence near the bridge and the event until that time.
“It will really cost the same amount to have police there,” Zeisz said.
Carrousel Museum President Charles Proefrock also signed a contract requiring the museum to pay $3,000 to the city for the overtime and other public services.
“We are still very disappointed with the whole process,” Rae Proefrock, the Carrousel Museum director, said. “The Common Council passed the resolution in April without any real conversation with us.”
But Zeisz believes the decision to change the hours should be left up to the Common Council — which is why the corporation and the museum were not invited to discuss the issue.
“We are entrusted as members of the Common Council to protect our residents and make the event safe for our community,” Zeisz said. “Personally, I’d like the event to stay open, too. But I have a job to do and so do the other council members.”
Councilmembers, acting on advice from Tonawanda Police Chief John Ivancic, moved to close the event early with the hope of curtailing the number of incidents and arrests resulting from rowdy youths who tend to overtake the festival midway each night.
The North Tonawanda side of the event — including the Gratwick Hose beer tent and other sponsors — will remain open until 11 p.m. NT police typically make far fewer arrests over the nine-day span than do Tonawanda police.
Proefrock said the reduction in Fest hours will likely cause a hardship for the Carrousel Museum — and that the museum can’t afford a big loss in revenue.
“It will reduce our revenue by 20 percent,” Proefrock said. “We were worried about that and requested a meeting with the Common Council two or three weeks ago, but they denied our request.”
Fahs agrees with Proefrock and remains unhappy with the process, but both thought that putting on the event was more important.
“We had to put things in perspective,” Fahs said. “Sometimes we don’t like the process or the outcome, but it is the largest fundraising activity in the area and involves so many invested non-profits.”
The contract will not be submitted until the ride organizer, who will be in town Friday night to begin setting up for the event, signs it.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.