Town Says 'No Parades'

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FARMVILLE – Don't worry about anyone raining on your parade.

From now on, there is only one parade in town.

Just the one that ends with Santa Claus on a Sunday afternoon in December when there is far less traffic in town than a Friday.

Last month's Fuqua School homecoming parade, for example, was the last of its kind, following a mostly safety-based decision by Town Council.

“The reason I brought it up is because Doug (Police Chief Doug Mooney) was concerned about having the parade,” Spates said during consideration of Fuqua School's parade permit request in October. “Whether they pay for the police officers or not, traffic has gotten so bad around Farmville. Businesses complain about losing business and you close the streets down for two hours to have a five-minute parade, and that's what the whole issue is. We're allowing them to have it this year but we're going to tell them that this is it, we're not having any more. Don't ask next year.”

Prince Edward County High School has been having its homecoming parade on campus, an option Fuqua will have next fall.

Safety was the primary concern but police staffing and personnel logistics, and overtime costs for Town employees also figured into council's ultimate decision.

“The way I figured it, it takes about 11 officers to cover the intersections, a minimum of 11 to cover all the intersections we covered last year,” Chief Mooney told council members. “With the traffic volume on a Friday afternoon, it is a safety issue. And that's the minimum amount of officers I can have.

“I don't have 11 officers working during the day so I had to have people come in and it takes two hours to have people set up, get it planned, get it ready. It's more than a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants thing. It takes planning to do it,” the police chief said. “But it is a safety issue.”

When asked by council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon if safety is still an issue with 11 officers staffing a parade, Chief Mooney answered, “with that amount of officers that's the minimum I can do to safely do it. So I think I can close off the road with 11 officers but it is a long parade route-from Fuqua all the way down Second Street to Main, that's a long parade route.”

“So is it safe?” Dr. Gordon asked again.

“With 11 officers I believe I can say it's as safe as I can make it,” Chief Mooney said.

“What about the Christmas parade?” asked town council member Sally Thompson.

“That's on a Sunday afternoon,” town manager Spates replied. “…But the whole issue is it's getting to the point with the traffic increase, and chief and I have talked about it, that we need to advise them that next year they (Fuqua) can't have a parade, whether they pay $500 or pay a thousand, the traffic's getting so bad that we don't feel it's a safe environment on Friday afternoon to have a parade.”

The discussion to that point prompted council member Tommy Pairet to wonder if other parade hopefuls could be given the option of another day of the week.

“Do you open the door to a different day or do you say, 'No, period?'” Pairet asked.

“I think you say, 'No, period,'” Spates told him. “There's no reason we can't work with them (Fuqua) and have it around the school. You've got schools on Route 60. You don't have homecoming parades down Route 60. There's ways they could do it. I just think the traffic, and Doug you may feel different, but I just think there's an awful lot of traffic on Friday evening.”

The police chief agreed, “It is. Friday is the worst day that you can have a parade.”

Next year, Spates declared, “they've got to work out something at the school.”

Pairet again looked toward the possibility of offering another day, “on Sunday, like the Christmas parade.”

There is another difference, the town manager noted, because the Town participates in the Christmas parade.

“We do the Christmas parade because the Town, in conjunction with the Jaycees, sponsors the Christmas parade. We're involved with them in the Christmas parade. It's kind of a Town-sponsored event,” Spates said. “I don't think you want to get into allowing people to have parades on Sunday, then you've got to bring in overtime public works people and everybody else.”

Wanting to ensure there was no confusion regarding the decision, Pairet asked, “so we're going to do away with parades altogether, with the exception of the Christmas parade, is that what we're saying?”

“I would think so…Doug, what do you think?” Spates asked the police chief.

“I think that's a good idea,” Chief Mooney said of making the Christmas parade the sole downtown parade. “…The problem on a weekend is that I have even less people working. All of my investigation section is out, so it's even tougher to get people in on a weekend, and then it becomes a personnel problem.”

Not anymore.