Oro-Medonte residents will be on the hook for more than $100,000 to cover the cost of policing this summer’s Boots and Hearts music festival if the township can’t work out a cost recovery reconciliation with host Burl’s Creek Event Grounds.
Following a complicated and protracted explanation of how the Ontario Provincial Police billing model works, OPP Sgt. Lisa Rotar provided Oro-Medonte council with a number on Wednesday.
“Based on the 2024 calls for service costs estimator tool, the billable calls for service total is estimated to be $78,722 for this event (Boots and Hearts) this year," Rotar said.
Add an additional $25,625 in overtime for OPP and civilians associated with the event and Oro-Medonte taxpayers could be looking at a bill in excess of $100,000.
In his report on the music festival, delivered Wednesday at the township’s council meeting, Shawn Binns, director of operations and community services for Oro-Medonte, said the calls for service to the OPP for Boots and Hearts 2023 — more than four times the number of calls in 2022 — will affect police costs for years to come.
“The overtime and increase in calls for service associated with the 2023 Boots and Hearts Event will result in an increase in the township’s future policing costs,” he said in his report. “The impacts of the 2023 event will show up in the 2025 policing billing statement, which will use 2020-2023 data.”
Binns said the complexities associated with the calculations of the OPP billing model make it difficult to quantify the costs.
“It is recommended a cost-recovery reconciliation be negotiated with Burl’s Creek for the 2023 Boots and Hearts event,” he added.
According to Binns’ report, the OPP responded to 174 calls for service at the Boots and Hearts festival. Forty of those calls resulted in charges being laid and 17 prisoners were transported to Orillia OPP detachment.
Last year, the OPP responded to 42 calls, laid 11 charges and transported six prisoners.
“The Burl’s Creek team is looking at their security deployment and opportunities to enhance security to deal with some of the aspects on site,” Binns said during the council meeting. “The OPP are reviewing their resource requirements for paid duty to address the increase in calls for services and opportunities to minimize the overtime associated with the investigations.”
At the Sept. 27 council meeting, Deputy Mayor Peter Lavoie requested township staff prepare the report.
At that time, Lavoie said he wanted a "net benefit review" of Burl’s Creek due to a number of events he said had “impacted the community quite heavily” during the Boots and Hearts festival, Aug. 10 to 13.
Two weeks earlier, at the Sept. 14 council meeting, Lavoie delivered a list of complaints from residents, including “noise experience in residential zones, public disorder, misconduct and mischief and property damage, particularly in and around the properties of Oro Station.”
At the time, Lavoie said he was also concerned about the reports he received regarding “operations, bylaws, traffic safety, parking congestion, violations, overflow and delay and, in particular, what the consequences were of loading up the site on Thursday rather than the of Wednesday as was the previous traffic plan.”
According to the report from Binns, minor modifications were made to the site-specific traffic plan that was developed in 2015 by Creighton Manning, a civil engineering firm. Despite the updates, there were a number of issues, including periodic traffic back-up and gridlock on Lines 7, 8 and 9, Ridge Road and, to a limited extent, Highway 11.
This was particularly problematic, Binns’ report noted, at load in and load out. He said there were a number of contributing factors, including the removal of Wednesday camping and load-in from the 2023 event resulted in an accelerated load-in period on Thursday.
Binns noted rain, minor accidents and more ride-share/pick-up/drop offs than anticipated also impacted the event.
Additionally, he said, changes made outside of the plan and insufficient single-day parking to accommodate patrons on Friday resulted in increased pedestrian traffic on Line 7 and the overpass toward Highway 11.
Moving forward, Binns said, Burl’s Creek has made a number of commitments, including updating the 2015 traffic plan and reviewing access/egress requirements based on attendance thresholds for single-day, multi-day event, and combination multi- and single-day events for 2024. They will also review in-grounds infrastructure and traffic-flow requirements, traffic-control requirements (control points, devices, signs), and infrastructure requirements, such as widening or revisions to access roads/pedestrian routes.
Burl’s Creek will also review opportunities for improving access within the grounds to mitigate queuing on township roads and bring back the Wednesday load-in of campers to reduce the flow of vehicles on other event days.
“I think the important message from today’s meeting is these concerns came forth at the time of the event and we listened to the public and we addressed the issues,” Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw said following the meeting. “Now we’ve shifted gears into formulating solutions.”
Greenlaw said all of the parties and agencies that are involved in the event are now working together and collaborating to come out with the best solution so there’s no repeat of what happened this past summer.