Police Chief Says Date Change for Mifflin Sets Costly Precedent

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Police Chief Noble Wray says the longer the legendary block party lasts, the more it will cost.

The city announced yesterday it will go along with UW students, who said they would hold the block party a week earlier than normal.

"If this were to take place in any other neighborhood in Madison, I think community would be raising very serious questions about it," Chief Wray says.

A block party worth more than $80, 000.

"I can't in my block have an $83, 000 to $93, 000 party," he says.

But it appears people living on Mifflin Street can.

"From the start, we were planning on having it on the 30th, UW student Stephen Ceolla says.

April 30.

One week earlier than the city planned.

Wray says, "It sets a precedent, an expensive precedent."

This year's Mifflin St. block party will happen one week earlier than its traditional date, the first Saturday in May.

Students said the original date conflicts with final exams, the next day.

Ashleigh Hoffman says, "We live here. We're the ones who live here. The cops can't really control what we're doing ... it's better for us so ... Obviously, we have to study. We don't want this on 7th, if we don't have to."

"As soon as the decision was made to change the dates, the costs went up. There's no two ways about it," Wray says.

That's because the city arranged early on to make May 7th a regular work day for more than 100 officers needed to patrol these two city blocks.

"We had officers agreeing to change their day off to reduce amount of overtime that the city would have to pay," he says.

He says that's what the city has done in the past to save money.

"We had a plan in place to reduce overtime exposure so it was not a mistake to try and do that," the chief says.

But is it a mistake to give students what they want?

Wray says, "Our posture has been to work and to engage the students in a friendly environment, however; we do hold them accountable for their actions."

It seems at least some students understand.

"Be nice to them and be thankful they're letting us have such a great party," Ceolla says.

The chief says last year's overtime expenses for the block party totaled nearly $40, 000, compared to this year's estimate of between $80, 000 and $90, 000.

He says officers also will prepare for a much smaller event on May 7.

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