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Element under fire once more after large event

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 8th, 2013

A request from the Element to be allowed to stay open an extra hour for a special event this Friday sparked a great deal of controversy regarding city emergency services at city council’s regular meeting Monday night.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, vice chair of council’s Public Safety Committee, brought up the two false fire alarms and rash of issues requiring police response at a Feb. 15 Element event as cause for concern.

“Each alarm means a cost to the city,” she said, while fire chief Gerry Rempel indicated that smoke machines at the night club are what set the alarms off.

Rempel was directed to send a warning letter to Element owner Florio Vassilakakis, then the conversation turned to policing as council moved to have RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Laurel Mathew attend next council meeting with a report on how these events impact city policing and overtime.

In an interview today, Mathew said there were 15 files opened and eight arrests made (many of them due to liquor/drug offences) in relation to the Feb. 15 event.

“I did move one of my day people to evening shift to ensure we had five people on that night,” she said. “We do that kind of scheduling change all the time, for events like Sunfest, too. Anything that brings in a bunch of people from out of town.”

Vassilakakis said he’s looking into solutions that will address the issue of the smoke detectors while ensuring everyone’s safety in the event of a real fire.

He also said events that bring 400 + people to town are good for the economy, but will see these kinds of problem arise.

“It’s a tiny percentage of our patrons who cause the problems – we do our best to police what happens inside, like having zero tolerance to drugs and underage drinking, but we can’t control the actions of every single one of our patrons when they leave,” he said. “We do things like take a huge (financial) risk bringing in a world-renowned, Grammy-Award-winning artist into the community. These kinds of events have economic spin-offs for the entire community.”

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