DFA pays up for police protection

Published 10:16 am Saturday, October 10, 2009

FRANKLIN—Citing the economy and an extremely tight budget, the city of Franklin gave notice earlier this year that the Downtown Franklin Association will be required to pay for police manpower used at its events.

Until this year, police provided security at DFA events like the Fall Festival “in-kind,” or at no cost.

Franklin Police Chief Phil Hardison said that the department had been in talks with the DFA for a while.

“They knew this was coming,” he said. “Given the budget cuts and the way the economy was, there were going to be services that the city wasn’t going to be able to provide.”

Dan Howe, the DFA manager, said that he understands the city’s position. He said that the city and the DFA have an agreement that dates back to 2002. In the agreement, the DFA agrees to operate the city’s visitor center and manage the farmers’ market and in exchange the city provides the DFA with office space, pays the manager’s salary and offers “in kind” police services at events, when available.

“Unfortunately with the economy and the reduction of the city’s budget, there is not enough money to support us,” he said.

Both Howe and Hardison said that it was important to note that the current situation is dictated solely by constraints in the city’s budget.

Howe added that the DFA has been paying for security at its weekly We Be Jammin’ concerts for several years.

During the Fall Festival’s block party, there were 10 off-duty officers providing security and during the street festival on Saturday there were five officers working on staggered shifts, which is about the same number of officers that were used last year, according to Howe.

Franklin police Lt. Tim Whitt said that said that manpower for the block party cost the DFA about $1,200 and manpower at the street festival cost about $875. He said that the DFA paid the overtime rate for police officers.

To help offset the cost of paying for police protection, Howe said that the DFA cut expenses in other areas, like a less extravagant fireworks display.

“We’ve looked at every way to cut costs,” he said.

Considering the police department’s tight budget, Hardison said that it’s important that money is “directed to the investigation of criminal acts.”

Hardison said that off-duty officers were used, so there was no effect on police protection elsewhere in the city.

“It is not unusual in any city in the country,” Hardison said. “We’re in a different economic time, and we just don’t have the ability (to offer in-kind services) given the dollars that we are budgeted.”

Despite the added expense of security this year, the Fall Festival was still a success, according to Howe. He declined to say how much the city charged for security.

“The event was a success because we had good sponsorships, good citizen participation and good vendors,” he said.

The DFA sponsors several events in downtown Franklin during the year, including a Chili Cook-off slated for Nov. 7.