Residents have spoken, local officials have listened and the Bishop Christmas Parade will remain on its traditional route.
In an effort to help cut costs at the Police Department, which accumulates expensive overtime, city staff suggested in late June that Police Chief Chris Carter look into the possibility of re-routing the annual parade to an area with less intersections.
Carter said parade detail eats up a large percentage of the department’s overtime budget as it takes most PD employees to operate traffic control during parades on Main Street.
Working with the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, which puts on the parade, Carter came up with a route that would travel east on Wye Road and continue southbound behind Kmart and Vons on Spruce Street, terminating at the rear of the City Park, where the parade has traditionally ended and other holiday festivities begin.
Before making a final decision on the proposed change, Carter and Chamber Executive Director Tawni Thomson solicited input from the community.
“We received quite a bit of input and we truly appreciate every member of the public who took the time to comment,” Carter said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “About 75 percent of the respondents say, ‘Keep it on Main Street.’ That’s basically where we stand.”
Carter told the City Council that it is the Police Department’s position that the parade be kept on Main Street.
Carter invited residents who might have ideas on how to cut overtime costs during the parade down, or any ideas to improve the event, to contact him. “We’re not going to rule out any other ideas,” he said.
Councilmember Jeff Griffiths asked if the department would be willing to utilize a volunteer force to help with traffic control during the parade to cut back on paid officer time.
“That’s a reasonable question. Unfortunately, because of public safety, I would be hesitant to ask volunteers to enforce road closures,” Carter said, adding that, in past years, officers have been required to “assert their authority” when local and visiting drivers attempted to circumvent the closures.
He also said that the department would be liable if any volunteers were injured, or if an untrained volunteer misdirected a motorist, causing an accident. If that were to happen, he said the city and PD may end up with a lawsuit on their hands. “It could end up being penny-wise and pound foolish,” Carter said.
Under Carter’s “improve the event” solicitation, Councilmember Jim Ellis suggested holding the parade later in the day, and combining it with the Street of Lights and Bishop Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
Though that idea may not provide any cost savings for the PD, Ellis said it could enhance the event and draw more residents to all three Yuletide celebrations.