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New London Irish Parade Plans Relocation Over Municipal Costs

City and parade committee at stalemate over costs of police and Public Works services for annual St. Patrick's Day event

Members of the New London Irish Parade and Mayor Daryl Finizio have accused one another of improper motives in the parade committee’s decision to hold its 2013 event in another community.

Marie Friess-McSparran, who was elected to the City Council last year, said the committee was unable to come to terms with the administration and recently voted to hold the parade elsewhere. She said a new community has not yet been determined.

“I can't say this is final because I would have to bring it back to the committee for a vote. I don't make the final decisions, but the will of the committee is that they are pretty frustrated with the city administration,” said Friess-McSparran. “They have been unwilling to commit to a final amount so we can get our permit and move along with preparations for the parade.”

The disagreement between the administration and committee involved the costs associated with municipal services that would have to be used in the event. Finizio issued an executive order in May putting several strategies into place to have city departments stay within their appropriated budgets. One section said the city will not approve a permit for any special event involving city services unless organizers have accounted for the cost of these services and paid the amount up front.

Cost estimates

The parade includes the use of services by the New London Police Department and Department of Public Works. The former department's services include officers and cruisers used to block intersections and direct traffic, while the latter department's work includes providing barricades and signage as well as painting symbols such as shamrocks or Irish flags along the parade route.

The 2012 parade, the fifth one held in the city, included a more extensive route which went down Jay Street, Huntington Street, Tilley Street, Bank Street, and State Street. The estimated police cost was $15,076.81. An item appropriating $15,000 to cover the extra police costs incurred in the event was unanimously defeated by the City Council on March 20, according to the council’s minutes. Finizio cited the police overtime costs for the parade as one factor motivating the executive order.

According to documents and e-mails provided by parade organizers and the administration, the initial police estimate to cover the same route in 2013 was $14,715.65. The initial estimate of the Department of Public Works was $3,489.79, including $1,867.79 for labor and $1,622 for equipment and materials.

The committee offered to pay $7,500 for municipal costs. Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard estimated that the cost of a shorter route encompassing only Bank Street and State Street, which the parade has done in the past, would be $6,437.26 This would include the use of three supervisors, 12 officers, and five cruisers. Reichard said expanding the route would require additional officers and cruisers at the cost of $343 per officer and $25 per hour per cruiser.

Public Works Director Tim Hanser said his estimate was based on 2012 costs. The projected services included the reviewing stand, trash cans, barricades, and a total of eight employees working between two and eight hours.

Hanser later reduced the estimate to $577.44 for labor and $1,022 for equipment and materials, a total cost of $1,599.47. He said this was done by eliminating both the use of a manager and asphalt painting along the route. Hanser also suggested a shorter route and taking out the reviewing stand for further savings.

Parade reaction

Richard Mastrandrea, the parade committee’s vice president, expressed frustration with the process in a Sept. 25 e-mail to Zak Leavy, Finizio’s executive assistant. Mastrandrea said he thought Hanser had estimated at an earlier meeting that Public Works costs would be between $600 and $800, and said he thought suggestions he had mailed to the mayor’s office had been overlooked or ignored.

“We have spent the last month trying to get firm figures to secure a permit for our parade. At each step I am told it is difficult to predict what the final cost will be with the event [six] months away and that worries me,” Mastrandrea said. “I get the impression that a final amount can't/won't be finalized until some time after the new year and that will keep our securing of the permit in limbo.”

Mastrandrea said in a Sept. 24 e-mail to Leavy that the committee would not be able to vote on the permit without more concrete figures on the costs for municipal services.

“How can our committee conduct a conversation then vote on continuing to have a parade here in New London when we are provided with only vague numbers and incomplete information?” he said. “If this is the best information the city of New London can provide, I will present the committee with your findings and we will vote based on your e-mails.”

Friess-McSparran said she thought the event should be billed as a city event rather than a private one, noting that the City Council voted 3-2 on Feb. 21 to endorse it as a city-sanctioned event. She also questioned some of the costs cited by Public Works, saying the city already owns items such as the barricades, garbage cans, and reviewing stand.

“It seems like the administration was trying to find ways to bankrupt the parade instead of finding ways to make it possible for this small nonprofit to be able to produce this event which tries to shine a positive light on New London for one day a year,” said Friess-McSparran. “We were unable to get a final fixed price for the services so we could obtain our permit, be able to fundraise, book participants and solicit sponsorships.”

Mayor reaction

Finizio said he and other members of the city administration have worked with the parade committee to determine costs and try to bring them to the level of the $7,500 offer. He said he was disappointed to see the issue brought up in a David Collins column in The Day and considered it an attempt to cast aspersion on the administration.

“It’s just so obviously a political attack instead of a real consent for seeing this event go forward, which I thought was what we all wanted,” said Finizio.

Finizio’s mayoral campaign was a sponsor of the 2011 parade. He marched in this year’s parade as a co-grand marshal along with Superintendent Sandra Stosz of the Coast Guard Academy. At the time, he said the parade’s offer made him the first openly gay grand marshal in a sanctioned St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Finizio said he is willing to continue work with the parade committee to address the issues, offering to help support the event with personal funds. He said the city could also absorb some expenses if the costs run beyond $7,500.

“I recognize the tremendous importance of this event and the benefit it brings to the downtown business community,” he said.

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Emily Kendall October 05, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Mr. Green Jr. You are such a hypocrit. Facts first. Zak did in fact lie look at the email information in the provided documents. The permit was filled out, sent by email to the administration and an email acknowledging receipt. Yet you spin your defense of the new boy mayor's boy Friday. To make it worse you stomp your feet like a little brat that people are beating up a civil servant. Hypocritical again you and the merry band of supporters for Daryl attack Marie Friess-Mcsparren continuously. She is a civil servant as well. But you must hate women and therefore it is OK to attack her but not OK for people to point out the truth about ZAK. You appear to have an unhealthy urge to wrap your protective shoulder around ZAK, the political appointed aid to Daryl. As pointed out before by others. You and your group cannot organize a successful YES vote. There is no way that you could pull off a parade like the Irish Parade that has happened in this city. Your group and the mayor did not even have enough supporters in your lifestyle community to get a strong showing when Daryl made his debut in an Irish Parade as the first openly Gay Grand Marshal. Wake up you have no support at all, Daryl and his administration have become a huge black eye for New London and the gay community. Everyone is distancing themselves from anything Daryl. Stop attacking some civil servants while saying it is wrong to attack civil servants. How foolish you do not see the idiocy in what you do and say.
Emily Kendall October 05, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Sorry corrected typos....
Emily Kendall October 05, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Daryl does it again! http://theday.com/article/20121005/BIZ02/310059914/1018 Where is his quote that "I will not stand for this" Daryl Drives business out of New London.
Emily Kendall October 05, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Allyn, I doubt Friess-McSparren is trying to leverage anyone or anything. She is just on vote of many that work on the parade. My guess is that the parade will go on as planned just in another community. If the vote was unanimous there is a good reason for it. The documents provided with this article tell the story pretty damn well. The administration tried to hamstring the parade, Mr. Zak lied. The real question is could the parade organization ever trust the administration to do what they say? the short answer is NO. The long answer in NO F'IN WAY. All they wanted was realistic proposals for the cost of the parade. That did not occur. Allyn De Vars just go away.
Emily Kendall October 05, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Please remember that the HOPE parade was cancelled due to the outrageous costs that they feared the city would want. Daryl Finizio wants nothing of what was in New London before he arrived here. Please Allyn explain that one away, and all the police leaving and business entities leaving the city all under the new administration.

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