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Special events increase in size

With several events slated Saturday, big crowds are expected to descend on Summit County this weekend.

And with bigger events come increased safety concerns.

"It’s been a little more of an issue this year. Some of these things are getting so large that it takes a large number of deputies to deal with the potential concerns and problems we have with public safety issues," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said. "I think it’s been a little bit shocking for some in county government to actually see the number of events that we are having and what the impacts to certain departments in the county are."

Though extra deputies, paramedics and firefighters will be needed to staff this weekend’s festivities, the economic benefits usually make the events win-win situations for residents and the county, Edmunds said.

"The economic benefits to the community are great. But we’re not going to compromise public safety just to earn a buck," Edmunds said. "Our primary concern is public safety. But the economic impacts in this community of some of these events are not lost on us."

Extra deputies are needed when officers are assigned to maintain order at concerts, bicycle races, parades and summer fireworks displays.

"We’re always concerned about public safety when we have these events because we don’t want an event that is supposed to be celebratory in nature to turn into a tragedy," Edmunds said. "When we do have an event organizer that does not handle it appropriately, we take actions against that individual or group of people by either not authorizing that event or next time scrutinizing their plan better than we did the first time."

County officials may have underestimated impacts the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back had on traffic in June.

"We always take a look at these things and, yeah, we have had concerns about some of the events in the past," Edmunds said. "We make sure that the event organizers have a plan and that it’s a viable plan, especially as it relates to public safety."

The costs for staffing deputies at special events are usually passed on to the promoters.

"Some of those events do pay a lot of money. If it’s going to be a large impact to our operation, then we have to charge for it, absolutely," Edmunds said. "It depends on how many people they are planning on having at the event and how many intersections need to be closed. Once they meet a certain threshold they have to have certain numbers of deputies."

Today’s marquee events include the Tour de Park City bicycle race. The course is a 150-mile loop through eastern Summit County and the Uinta Mountains, which starts and ends in Coalville. Race organizers expect about 400 bicyclists to participate in the ride.

Tour de Park City founder Riley Siddoway said that before he could receive a permit for the race he obtained approvals from several county departments.

"There will be regulation needed to make sure that residents and participants can do these things safely together, but it shouldn’t be so burdensome that the events, which are some of the lifeblood of the economy, just decide to go away," Siddoway said. "It’s gone from not very many requirements and regulations, to the other side of the spectrum. There are a fair amount of things we need to do, and obviously the county and the cities are doing it to make sure participants are safe and residents are not going to hit a bicyclist."

With some departments experiencing "event overload," county officials have clamped down on promoters, Siddoway said.

"The Summit County Sheriff’s Office for instance, that’s all they’re doing now is just dealing with events. They probably think, hey, I’m a police officer, I’m not a special event liaison," Siddoway said. "I can feel some fatigue building because of all the events. There might have to be some discussion about what events need to be here and what events really don’t add to the county or the city."

Siddoway said he is paying about four off-duty deputies, six Utah highway patrollers and several police officers in Evanston, Wyo., to be on hand at Saturday’s bike race.

Bob Zanetti, an assistant chief at the Park City Fire District, said off-duty firefighters will also be on standby at the Tour de Park City.

"Our participation and what we require for a special event permit depends on the size of the event and how many people they anticipate being there," Zanetti said.


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