CITY OF TONAWANDA — The Canal Fest of the Tonawandas Inc. and the City of Tonawanda Council were again banging heads over the event’s contract terms at Tuesday’s council meeting — just five days before the event is scheduled to begin.
The Common Council passed the event’s contract in April, which requires that all rides, amusements, concessions and events on the Tonawanda side of the event end by 10 p.m. In past years, the event shut down at 11 p.m each night.
“However, the city is still asking for the same amount of money they have requested in past years for the use of the public servicesâ€”like the use of streets, police, and fire safety,” noted Canal Fest organizer Randy Fahs.
Fahs attended the City Council meeting, hoping to change the closing time to 11 p.m. Tuesday, the night of the parade, as well as Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. But Council President Carleton Ziesz says the closing times and the $17,000 figure are not up for negotiation.
Fahs said he was not given a clear reason why the hours would be reduced, but City of Tonawanda Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said that they wanted to make it a more family-friendly event.
“Ultimately it is up to us to maintain public safety,” Pilozzi said. “That’s our responsibility.”
According to Ziesz, the change was originally a recommendation from the police chief to maintain the safety of residents and attendees after several years of problems involving rowdy youths who tend to congregate on the city’s side of the event, where the midway is staged.
Fahs estimates the Canal Fest Inc. will lose 20 percent of revenues this year in part due to the earlier closing. He added a good portion of that loss can also be attributed to the revised New York State Labor Law, which prohibits rides from being open eight days in a row with the same staff. As a result, no rides will be open on Sunday, the first day of the festival.
“There is nothing the council can do about the law, but despite that â€” there is normally an open discussion between the city council and us to make changes to the event,” Fahs said. “This year, we never discussed the reduction of hours.”
And according to Fahs, the city did not send him a contract until yesterday upon his request. But Zeisz says that Canal Fest representatives were aware of the contract changes before it was passed in April.
“They were aware from the resolution that we still wanted the same amount of money,” Zeisz said. “We pay more for the event than we take in and have propped up the event financially for years.”
Fahs’ biggest concern is losing the contract with the amusement ride company when it comes due in 2 years. He believes the ride manager may not sign another contract if his revenue decreases due to fewer hours of operation. According to Fahs, the whole event will be compromised if that happens.
“As to what will happen now and in the next few days, I don’t know,” F
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.