It’s no surprise to anyone in Kingston that the street parties and unruly behaviour on the part of some post-secondary students have resulted in additional costs for local services.
In fact, for the month of September 2021 Kingston Police services alone incurred $124,443 solely for enforcement in the University District, according to Police Chief Antje McNeeley’s office. That month saw near-weekly street closures and a large presence of emergency services in the University district due to unsanctioned gatherings and parties – problematic events at any time, but more so during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, both after and because of ongoing conversations between the City of Kingston and Queen’s University, according to both Mayor Bryan Paterson and Principal Patrick Deane, the University has gifted a substantial $350,000 to the City in an effort to offset those costs.
“So, I think it became pretty clear to us early on that this was going to be a really unique year, that we would have all the students back and still be managing a pandemic. And that there would be a lot of challenges and pressures that would come from that. I mean, policing and enforcement is one example. But also, on communication with the student body on local bylaws, and rules, and other city services that, quite frankly, are a little more complicated and difficult to provide in the midst of a pandemic,” Mayor Paterson shared, noting that conversations between the City and the University about the matter began in the summer – conversations that were “good, solid communication,” he said.
“And really, I think when we got into September, I got a better sense of what that financial impact looks like. And so, I did, I asked for contribution. [I] talked to Queen’s Principal Deane, and, as I said to, to their credit, I think they recognized it, and they wanted to be a partner. And I think in their words, they said to me that they wanted to pay their fair share, understanding those challenges,” Paterson continued, clarifying that the contribution was “for this fall, really just recognizing that, you know, a lot of those challenges would really proceed over these over these first few months of the academic year.”
For his part, Principal Deane echoed Paterson’s sentiments.
“The first thing I’d say about it is we’ve worked really closely with the City and the Police and all the city agencies during the whole of the COVID crisis, but particularly this year, and as we were anticipating the students coming back in full force. It’s been a really good partnership, I think. We’ve all managed our way through COVID really well because there’s been mutual support,” he said, noting that the parties he referred to have worked “very closely together” in planning for the fall.
“But it’s obvious to us that this is an unusual year. I mean, the University has made contributions in the past to offset some of these sort of unusual costs. But this year, because of COVID, I think the City has incurred much greater expenses than would have normally been the case,” Deane continued, “And we see ourselves as an important part of this community. And therefore, it seems only right that we share in the costs. So, you know, it’s not just the management of parties and policing, and that sort of thing that the city has had to invest its money [in]. And so, our view is that we make this contribution to the City, and it’s up to the City to decide how it’s best used.”
The extra costs incurred by Bylaw Enforcement were not immediately available from the City of Kingston. However, Kingstonist has begun the process of formally requesting those figures through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), which can take months to process.
“In September Kingston Fire & Rescue did not incur any overtime costs responding to calls for service in the University District, as part of the University District Safety Initiative,” stated Fire Chief Shawn Armstrong.
Kingstonist has also requested the extra costs incurred by Frontenac Paramedic Services, however, their financial records for September have yet to be completed.
“With any large gatherings, such as those [in the University District], large costs are incurred,” Frontenac Paramedics did share, noting those cost are raised substantially during the current pandemic due to the need for sanitizing, additional personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.
This article will be updated with all applicable incurred costs as that information becomes available.
Without all of those figures, the total costs incurred are hard to pinpoint, however, both Paterson and Deane agreed that the monetary donation does not necessarily “make up for” the events that have occurred throughout the University District so far in the 2021-2022 school year.
“Well, I’m sure it’s not a precise calculation. But what I will say is, I was guided by [the City] as to estimation of what the costs have been or are likely to be over the coming weeks. And we agreed that this would be a reasonable figure to settle on,” said Deane.
“I think there is an impact in the community that is very difficult to put a price on, and that’s the disruption and the frustration that residents feel, and so on. So, I think, you know, money doesn’t compensate for every aspect of the disruption caused by these parties, but at least it goes directly to the resources that the City has had to deploy in order to address these situations. I think that’s what I would say.”
Paterson was a little more candid with his feelings on the matter.
“I don’t think I would equate the two. I mean, I think that we don’t think that anything can make up for that, I think we just need to recognize it’s been a big challenge, it’s been a big challenge on our emergency services, it’s been a big challenge for Police, it’s been a big challenge for our community as a whole. And I think we need to recognize that we’ve made some progress,” Paterson said of whether the monetary donation “makes up for” the situations in the University District and subsequent costs incurred.
“And, you know, as a City, we’ve made hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines over the last month. So, I think that, you know, again, [it’s] just demonstrating how serious we are on this piece. That being said, you know, I think that this contribution is really about partnership and about Queen’s supporting the City with these challenges,” he continued, noting that both he and Principal Deane have issued messages to the Kingston community and student body respectively with regard to Homecoming 2021.
“I think that being able to have that support, being able to stand shoulder to shoulder on it… I think that being able to talk and be able to work together is really important. Obviously, I’ve said this from the beginning, the City will do everything that we can, but Queen’s needs to do its part, as well. And I think that this contribution is part of that.”
Indeed, this endowment and messaging comes as Homecoming 2021 kicks off on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. But, as Principal Deane was quick to point out, Homecoming is to be all virtual events this year – anything outside that in terms of gatherings or street parties is “unsanctioned,” he said.
Nonetheless, Paterson, Deane, Kingston Police, the City of Kingston, and Frontenac Paramedic Services all conveyed they are aware that unsanctioned parties have already been planned, and they have planned accordingly in order to provide necessary services and enforcement. For its part, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KCHC) has also prepared the hospitals for the possible influx of patients – not that that is what any of these parties are hoping for.
“I’ve always, always tried to lead with hoping for the best, but planning and preparing for less than the best,” Paterson said, noting that he is aware that the majority of post-secondary students are kind, courteous, and very mindful of pandemic protocols.
“I think that the vast majority have heard that message. And we’ll take that into account. But I’m also not naïve that there are those that may choose to test those boundaries. And so, I think it’s important for Police and for the City to be prepared and ready to respond, and to be ready to respond quickly,” he continued.
“Because, quite frankly, everyone knows at this point what the rules and the standards are. And these are rules and standards for everyone in our community. This not about attacking students, this is a better expectation, of everyone, every citizen of Kingston, and so I’m hopeful. But ultimately, we will be ready to respond if there are those that choose to test those boundaries.”
To view a video message from Principal Deane, click here.