Surrey’s Santa Parade is in jeopardy of being cancelled, but it’s not because of COVID-19.
Traffic control and security costs have skyrocketed over the past number of years and the Cloverdale BIA just doesn’t have the money to cover the enormous increases.
“For years, I was always crying that we would never (cancel) it,” said Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA. “And we’ve always had (sponsors) come to the table. But this time, the traffic control and security costs are just too high.”
Orazietti was speaking to the Cloverdale Reporter while the members of both the BIA and Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce were renovating a new office — next door to their current one — which they’ll move into April 1. (The City recently notified both organizations they’d be raising their rent, so both Orazietti and Scott Wheatley, the Chamber’s executive director, scrambled to find another office space.)
Orazietti said the level of traffic control the City required last year pushed the price tag for the Surrey Santa Parade of Lights into the stratosphere and the parade went $20,000 over budget.
“Having professional traffic control … starts to eat up all your costs,” explained Orazietti. “Last year the price jumped because the City requested a higher safety standard.”
He added that even with funding from the City, it only amounted to $2,500 and it didn’t come close to offsetting costs. But even that modest amount dried up this year.
“We may go after more sponsors,” said Orazietti, considering ways to keep the parade going. “We may be able to do it, but we may not be able to save the parade.”
He said it hasn’t been 100 per cent confirmed yet, but he thinks the Big Rigs for Kids portion of the parade will be cut from the event, should the parade go on.
“The truck component that went to Whalley will be no longer — (that’s) a $5,000 dollar cost.”
Orazietti has been in touch with the City to ask if the parade can revert back to a lower, and less pricey, level of traffic control.
“We want to look at it because we just won’t be able to continue when security and traffic control costs are upwards of $20,000.”
He added the City has been open to discussing the situation, but that everything has slowed down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The City is trying to see what it can do to make it more efficient,” he said.
Yalda Asadian, community enhancement manager for the City, said the RCMP decides what level of security is needed, but it’s the City that determines how many traffic control personnel are required.
“Every outdoor event that consists of 250+ people that takes place within the City is reviewed by the Festival and Events Support Team (FEST),” Asadian wrote in an email to the Cloverdale Reporter. “During this reviewal process, the onsite number of security personnel and police members is determined by the RCMP to ensure public safety. The City cannot comment on the risk assessment process completed by RCMP.”
Asadian added the Cloverdale BIA was reimbursed for 50 per cent of policing (security) costs through the City’s policing grant program.
“The City of Surrey’s engineering department had requested an increase to the number of traffic management personnel in key areas of the parade route to enhance public safety,” she explained.
Asadian said this was done to lift the parade’s safety standard.
“Concerns were identified with parade attendees, particularly children, walking/standing on the parade route and entering blind spots of large moving vehicles participating in the night parade.”
She said people across Canada have become hyper aware of parade safety after a four-year-old died when she fell under a float at a Santa parade in Yarmouth, N.S. in 2018.
She added, “the FEST committee reviews all events annually to minimize unnecessary cost to the organizers.”
But Orazietti said, “The unfortunate reality is that the City doesn’t support community events when a BIA is involved.” He said the City sees local BIAs as extensions of City Hall because the BIAs are funded with tax revenue.
He explained the problem with that approach is it’s the taxpayers who identify what spending priorities should be and not the City. Therefore, if taxpayers think a parade — or other event — is a priority, Orazietti feels the City should not make their decision on funding the event based on whether or not a local BIA is involved.
“In dealing with all of this, you get into subjective disagreements, which are ‘what’s good for everybody’? In a lot of cases, that’s hard to answer.”
Orazietti said when the BIA did surveys, the biggest issue people identified in Cloverdale dealt with parking and parking related problems — not special events.
“A special event is a one day affair and it’s gone,” he said. “So a special event is not wrong, but you have to make sure you measure the effectiveness of it: is it really adding a lot of value for businesses, customers, and visitors to the area?”
Orazietti added that the BIA held its annual general meeting in February and, although discussing the Santa Parade took up a lot of time, a number of other items were discussed.
“We want to add lighting to key areas in Cloverdale to encourage patrons to visit businesses in the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. window.” He said many people visit Cloverdale during the day, but that evening “window” is also very important. He said a lot of businesses can benefit if Cloverdale is seen as an evening destination.
“We are also looking at enhancing the parking lots — adding lighting, adding heritage storyboards – we want people to feel safe and to be excited about coming down here.”
Orazietti said there are plans to add another “Cloverdale” gateway sign on the corner of the Stampede Tack property across from KPU on Highway 10 and 180th Street.
“It’ll be a horizontal version of the one that’s on the bypass.”
Orazietti stressed that everything is moving slowly for the time being because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his number one priority for now is just to get information out to workers and businesses so they can find much-needed help and resources.