Summit County officials prepare for the Sundance crowds
As the film world descends on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival this week, county officials are preparing for increased demand for services, from a huge swell of Health Department inspections to an increase in calls to the Sheriff’s Office.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said that Park City incurs about 99% of the film festival’s government planning demands but that Sundance remains the largest event held in the county annually and the impacts are felt in the county’s courts and jails, roads and hotels.
“Sundance has a huge effect on the whole community,” Fisher said. “From a county government perspective, we don’t dread it at all. It’s a wonderful event in the community that certainly causes some impacts that our residents have either expressed opinions about, or deal with or stay away. Sundance brings a lot of good to our community as well, not just tax revenue.”
Nate Brooks, the county’s environmental health director, said the Health Department spends more time in the run-up to the event to prevent “a storm of inspections” in just a few days. The department is responsible for inspecting the temporary “mass gathering sites” and places that will offer food.
“It is all hands on deck and our staff is great (at) pitching in and working with people to ensure safe food consumption,” Brooks said. “We only have four licensed environmental health scientists … and that requires that we team up to attempt to knock out all the inspections early in Sundance and then spot check and handle complaints throughout the events.”
Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said the office is ramping up for the busiest event of the year. He said the volume of calls increases, which affects dispatchers, and jailers are kept busy with an increase in the number of bookings.
The office also does a lot of planning before Sundance, Wright said, coordinating security plans with all the venues and discussing films that may draw protesters to ensure an adequate law enforcement presence.
He added that the Park City Police Department bears the brunt of the event and that sheriff’s deputies supplement their efforts as much as they can, including providing extra staffing at venues and for traffic control.
For the Public Works Department, there are compounded challenges for snow removal if a storm hits while there are more vehicles on the road.
“The added traffic can slow us down a bit,” Public Works Director Derrick Radke said.
The Transportation Department does what it can through signage and messaging to direct people to mass transit and park-and-ride options.
Fisher said that, even though many residents are vocal about the event’s inconveniences, some see the positives.
“We get a lot of exposure out of this as well,” he said. “There are a certain percentage of our residents who enjoy the event.”
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