Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Make Irish eyes smile

Parade group seeks financial backing

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— On the hook for $30,000 in police overtime that will no longer be covered by the cash-strapped city, the St. Patrick’s Day parade committee is hoping to rally financial support from downtown merchants and parade goers.
While the parade committee is working closely with City Hall to raise the money needed to stay in New Haven, if efforts fail, the festivities may be headed out of town, according to parade Executive Chairman Robert Shanley.
"I don’t want to pit city against city. New Haven is trying to work hard on our behalf. If the merchants step up, then everything is OK. We need the merchants’ help badly," Shanley said.
Shanley said his committee has discussed the possibility of holding the parade in West Haven. "West Haven has an established parade route along Campbell Avenue," he said.
"If push came to shove, we’d run it by Hamden, maybe East Haven," he said.
While West Haven Mayor John Picard said his staff has been approached about holding the parade, he doubted that would be necessary.
"I fully expect the parade to be in New Haven next year," he said. "I know it’s been a long- standing tradition."
"If New Haven wasn’t going to happen, we would entertain the possibility," he added.
Hoping to keep the parade in New Haven, Shanley met Friday with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. to draft a fund-raising pitch to be dispatched soon to more than 100 downtown merchants.
A meeting has been called for 10 a.m. June 27 at City Hall to gather merchant support for the parade.
The city paid the parade’s $34,297 police overtime bill last year. That expense, as well as police overtime costs for all special events, including the Labor Day road race, the Columbus Day parade, the Freddie Fixer parade, the Puerto Rican Day parade and the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, will no longer be included in the city budget, saving the city about $250,000.
"We’re not trying to shut down parades, we’re not trying to make it difficult for parades to take place," said city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga. "At the same time, we have to meet the budget and we have to be very careful. We’ll try whatever we can to help them facilitate fundraising, and hope that organizations can find those resources so it doesn’t become a challenge."
While the city is only assisting the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Mayorga said support would be given to other groups that ask for it.

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