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Share planning costs of events at Saratoga County Fairgrounds

Saturday, October 13, 2012
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The Saratoga County Fairgrounds aren’t a one-week-a-year venue anymore. The number of events staged at the fairgrounds has been growing in recent years, and as a story in Tuesday’s Gazette detailed, some of the events have been barn-burners.

Accompanying the growth have been some growing pains — traffic management and other public safety issues — and Ballston Spa officials are determined to address them over the winter so things run more smoothly next year. A good idea, but it may take a circus-like balancing act to reconcile the needs of village residents and public safety officials with the desires of event promoters interested in using the fairgrounds.

Crowds attracted by things like country music concerts could easily exceed 10,000. That could overwhelm police, fire and emergency medical services in a village the size of Ballston Spa, so it’s essential to have advance planning — months’ worth, not weeks’ — to ensure that additional public safety personnel are available. After all, this isn’t like planning for a neighborhood block party.

It also seems reasonable to ask promoters, or the fairground owners, to pay part of the added cost for such services. Village officials estimated that an all-day concert for a crowd of 10,000 to 12,000 would have run an additional $28,000 in police costs alone.

Obviously, village businesses benefit when a crowd that size descends on the fairgrounds, selling more food, beer, gasoline, etc. than they otherwise would. Quite indirectly, village taxpayers benefit when that happens, from added sales tax revenue. So the crowds and inconveniences caused by a major event at the fairgrounds are not all bad from locals’ standpoint. Still, when promoters stand to gain tens of thousands of dollars from a well-attended event, it hardly seems unfair to ask them to help defray some of the public’s added costs.

There’s a nice, long break at the fairgrounds now, providing ample opportunity for village and fair officials to work out a deal that’s good for both sides.

 
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