Progress, but con­cerns over town’s ap­proach to Home­com­ing 2018

The Casket - - Local - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­ald@the­cas­ket.ca

The Antigo­nish Town Coun­cil is op­ti­mistic that the town’s in­vest­ment of $4,000 to­ward an on­cam­pus event for St. F.X. Home­com­ing week­end was a step in the right di­rec­tion, to­ward mit­i­gat­ing the some­times chaotic par­ty­ing and rev­elry the event can en­tail, around­town.

"We did see a big improve­ment this year, over last year," Mayor Lau­rie Boucher said at the town coun­cil’s reg­u­lar Oct. 15 coun­cil meet­ing. Boucher re­ferred to re­ports from the RCMP and St. Martha’s Hos­pi­tal in­di­cat­ing they were less busy than the pre­vi­ous year, as proof of that improve­ment.

"There wasn’t as much dam­age this year, and there wasn’t as much garbage ly­ing around as last year," Boucher said.

Boucher at­trib­uted this year’s less rowdy Home­com­ing week­end to the mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts by a work­ing group, that con­sisted of the Antigo­nish town and county coun­cil mem­bers, St. F.X., St. Martha’s Hos­pi­tal, the RCMP and lo­cal land­lord’s’ as­so­ci­a­tion – a group Boucher com­mended for "help­ing lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion" be­tween com­mu­nity groups.

This open com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween com­mu­nity groups is what Boucher sees as cru­cial to keep­ingth­ingsmore­order­lyin fu­ture Home­com­ing week­ends.

Boucher com­pared the work­ing group to the part­ner­ships be­tween lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions that has paved the way for the lo­cal skate part to be built on West Street, and the new side­walk that was just con­structed on West Street – things that would be much more dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish, she noted, with­out St. F.X. mak­ing fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions.

Boucher de­scribed the $4,000 the town con­trib­uted to the on­cam­pus party as "not a triv­ial amount, and it’s im­por­tant to be dili­gent of where we put ev­ery dol­lar of the tax­pay­ers’ money."

Boucher said the RCMP’S more ag­gres­sive ap­proach to deal­ing with of­fenses "set the tone" for the week­end, and served as an­other mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor to the chaotic con­di­tions that pre­vi­ous Home­com­ing week­ends have en­tailed.

"They were quick to shut par­ties down, with zero tol­er­ance. Zero tol­er­ance for liquor, noise by­law [vi­o­la­tions], and big par­ties and gath­er­ings," Boucher said. "By­law en­force­ment of­fi­cers were good to get out ahead of Home­com­ing, talk­ing to big­ger houses, and to land­lords that have mul­ti­ple units around town."

Boucher ac­knowl­edged there were some res­i­dents who did not share in the en­thu­si­asm, not­ing there were com­ments in tra­di­tional and so­cial me­dia, from res­i­dents unim­pressed with the town’s han­dling of Home­com­ing week­end.

"But, I had quite a few phone calls from peo­ple en­cour­ag­ing us to keep go­ing in this di­rec­tion," Boucher said. "They are see­ing what we can do to­gether, as part­ners, rather than what we can do in­di­vid­u­ally."

"What­ever the money fig­ure is, it did seem to have an ef­fect. The amount of drunken non­sense around town was def­i­nitely lower than last year," said an Antigo­nish res­i­dent who wished to re­main anony­mous. "That’s not to say, ‘prob­lem solved,’ as I did see some­one on the cor­ner of Main and Hawthorne vom­it­ing all over the side­walk, and then an­other per­son in the bushes 20 feet away."

Boucher em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of "keep­ing fo­cused on the big­ger pic­ture," since "this year is a step in the right di­rec­tion. With those part­ner­ships and com­mu­ni­ca­tion open, we’re on the right track to mit­i­gate some of the chal­lenges."

It was re­ported that the Antigo­nish ARCMP had ap­prox­i­mately four times the amount of staff work­ing on the Home­com­ing week­end than it would on a reg­u­lar Satur­day.

Coun. Di­ane Roberts asked if this would lead to in­creased polic­ing costs, with over­time be­ing paid to of­fi­cers who were on duty dur­ing the week­end.

"We don’t ask for ex­tra. It’s un­der the dis­cre­tion of the staff sergeant, whether or not he wants to," Boucher said. "It’s up to him, to see the com­mu­nity safe and un­der con­trol."

"That’s some­thing we should think about," Roberts said, af­ter be­ing in­formed that over­time costs for lo­cal of­fi­cers were in­curred. "There are huge polic­ing costs in town, and ev­ery year it goes up."

Boucher said the ef­forts to mit­i­gate the rau­cous par­ty­ing and vi­o­la­tions of lo­cal by­laws that are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with Home­com­ing were the prod­uct of months of plan­ning – start­ing shortly af­ter Home­com­ing 2017.

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