The Town of Amherst’s decision to charge road races for police costs that are more than $1,000 may affect almost a dozen events.
Most runners realize that volunteers aren’t the best choice to take charge of traffic in busy intersections, and that the police force is better equipped for the job. Besides, there are liability issues. Those same runners realize that there are costs involved in such actions.
Amherst had been covering those expenses in the past. Now the town has passed along the costs to the races, ending what could be considered a subsidy to nonprofit organizations. Was it appropriate? That depends on your point of view.
The regulation is in force, though. The concern in this space now comes down to one question: How will it affect runners?
The answer is still unclear. At this point, though, it looks as if there will be fewer races, higher entry fees, and smaller donations to charities in some to-be-determined combination.
Two people directly involved in races that use the Amherst Police Department were willing to comment on the regulation’s effects. One of the races already has been held under the new rules, while the other is months away.
Diane Martorana is director of corporate relations for Cradle Beach Camp. Its Penguin Run was held in January, so the organization already has dealt with the issue.
“We had heard about it in the news last fall. We weren’t sure if the town was going to enact it,” Martorana said. “We sent a letter requesting to use the streets. They called us about it and said they had passed the ordinance.
“How they determined the figure is beyond me, but based on last year’s figures, overtime costs and so on, our charge was $2,300. That hurts.”
The Penguin Run didn’t have much choice but to pay the fee. Planning for these events goes on throughout the year. There wasn’t time to consider a new race course, one that might not go on the crowded Niagara Falls Boulevard. Besides, the race has established a good relationship with Classics V restaurant on that street.
“Classics has been a supporter of the event from the very beginning,” she said. “The town has been really good to us, the community. The police has been fabulous.”
The price for runners entering the Penguin Run did go up $5 this year, to $30. Martorana said that increase was not solely tied to the extra costs of the police.
“We hadn’t raised our entry fee in six years. It was time to do it, with the other costs involved,” she said.
The annual Lebro’s Race is still seven months away – in September. Lee Federocoti of Lebro’s Restaurant eventually decided to go on with that event as well – particularly with a 25th anniversary event coming up.
“The day after the race ends, we start planning it. We’re not going to stop it,” he said.
Changing the race course isn’t a good option in this case either. It starts and ends at the restaurant on Campbell Boulevard, so moving to a park won’t work. Besides, a good-sized race needs plenty of space for the runners. Relocating to, say, the Amherst Bike Path wouldn’t work.
“Logistically, it’s too narrow,” Federocoti said. “When you’ve been running a race for some 20-something years, you need a good width for the race to start.”
Federocoti says he has no plans to raise the cost of the race to cover the extra cost, and he doesn’t think most other races will do that either. The police fee will simply come out of the race’s donation to charity.
“If we raised, say, $10,000 in the name of Carly’s Club in the past, we’ll raise $8,000 this time,” he said.
However, that $2,000 difference could prove to be more important to smaller races. It could be the difference between raising money and losing money – and a nonprofit organization isn’t likely to stage a fundraising event that loses money.
• Polar Bear 5K, 1691 Lockport Olcott Road, Olcott, 10 a.m. on Feb. 24, 434-8887.
• Canisius Chilly Challenge 5K, 1180 Delaware Ave., noon on Feb. 24, 882-0466, ext. 262.
• Shamrock Run, 8K, 62 Republic St., South Buffalo, 12 noon on March 2, 856-8613.
• Slush Run 5K, Williams Center at University at Fredonia, 9 a.m. on March 3, 673-3451.