Oro-Medonte Township staff will be spending the next couple of months preparing a report for council that will address more than a dozen concerns related to the Boots and Hearts festival at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds.
The report is expected to be presented to council by the end of November.
In his motion for a 'net benefit review' of the township’s relationship with Burl’s Creek and Republic Live, presented at the township’s regular council meeting on Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Peter Lavoie requested staff review and report back to council on “cost, traffic, policing burden, cost of police prosecution after the event has closed, traffic plan adherence, cost of township resources applied to the event, sound wall records, public mischief and misconduct occurrences, property zoning and taxes, event permit fee, etc.”
Lavoie’s motion was passed unanimously.
Todd Jenereaux, executive vice-president of Republic Live, the company that presented the Boots and Hearts Festival in mid-August, attended Wednesday’s council meeting.
Following the motion, Jenereaux was asked what he thought about council’s decision to conduct a “net benefit review” of the event, which is held at the event grounds halfway between Barrie and Orillia.
“We don’t think this is much of a story,” Jenereaux said. “I don’t really have any comments.”
Lavoie first brought his concerns to council at its Sept. 13 meeting.
“There were a number of substantial events, I think, that impacted the community quite heavily, so I do want to draw attention to them because I feel they are quite severe in their nature,” he said at the time.
The councillor then presented a list of concerns, including vandalism and property damage in Oro Station, public disorder, traffic safety, parking congestion, and noise.
Lavoie’s stance hasn’t changed. In his opening comments on Wednesday, he detailed what he wanted to see in the report from the township’s perspective.
He wants to be able to ensure public safety and minimize the disruption to township residents. He’s also looking to ensure equity, transparency and respect for the relationship between the township and Burl’s Creek.
Lavoie also wants to make sure the township does not lose money and that the user — Burl’s Creek and Republic Live, in this instance — pays the costs for conducting this event within the township.
He says he's concerned about the township’s reputation, based in part on some of the criminal charges laid by Ontario Provincial Police during the popular summer event that draws attendees in the thousands.
And lastly, Lavoie says he wants a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) to be established with the objective of continuous improvement toward an improvement in the township’s experience for these large events.
Coun. Richard Schell said he was “disappointed” this motion was being brought forward at a time prior to township staff issuing the customary report.
“Bringing this motion, especially in the manner it was dealt with at council prior to the staff report, will result in negative outcomes that would have been avoided through following the traditional manner of having a staff report come before council,” Schell said.
Schell didn’t elaborate on what those "negative outcomes" would be and called to have the Burl’s Creek net benefit review deferred.
Coun. Lori Hutcheson sought clarity on the reporting process for events at Burl’s Creek, saying she thought it was prudent to have the information as soon as possible.
“Anytime that we can have a timely review on the financial aspects of any kind of event, I think it’s worth having a look at,” she said.
According to Shawn Binns, the township's director of operations and community services, municipal staff currently prepares a report for council prior to issuing a special-event permit for Burl’s Creek events. Part of that report includes an overview of the operational plan, which is reviewed annually.
However, it doesn’t address the specific issues, Lavoie noted. He said he's looking for what many event organizers call a 'post-mortem’ — an objective accounting of documented events.
Binns said he had no issues with the deputy mayor’s request.
”I think what’s being asked is pretty clear and straightforward,” he added.
Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw let council know conversations have already started and the township’s concerns are being addressed.
“Steps have been taken, collaboratively, by all of the agencies, the organizer and the township to provide a better product moving forward,” Greenlaw said. “At the end of the day, that’s how we need to look at things. Our job is to provide solutions.”