WaveFest organizers scramble to pay for event's security

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - By Al Showers – bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - WaveFest organizers are scrambling to raise money to provide security for the upcoming event. They say Waveland city leaders backed out of a commitment to fund over-time pay for city police officers who will man the festival.

Organizers say although the new development won't prevent the event from going on, it does put the festival's budget in a financial jam.

Security is more important that ever this year. Festival Co-chair Charlie Cornelius said the event is expected to attract more than 10,000 people, a bigger crowd than ever.

Policing those crowds for the two day event is where the controversy begins.

Cornelius said Waveland City leaders agreed to pay overtime for four police officers, but then recently voted against it.

"The cost for that on the high end should cost about $5,000," Cornelius said. "They have already approved overtime funding for public works personal to be on duty that day. So it's $5,000 that we're still searching for to make WaveFest happen."

"It's a very tight budget year for Waveland and we're trying to keep our expenses in order," said Ward 1 Alderwoman Lili Stahler.

Stahler said she was told the money raised through a festival sponsored 5-K race would help pay for security. But organizers didn't think the race could generate enough money.

"From an economic development standpoint, it's crucial for Waveland to support these kinds of events," Cornelius said.

Stahler said she has always supported the festival. She's even had booths there for the past five years. Mayor Tommy Longo believes he has the solution.

"I feel like we have a responsibility to the public, for the public safety," Longo said. "It makes it much more difficult with the board not approving police overtime. But there is always a way where there is a will. And if we need to, use administrative personnel who don't get paid overtime, and allow them to work those two days and take a day off in the future."

WaveFest will be held October 16th and 17th.

The Hancock County Tourism Bureau gave WaveFest a big boost this year. It used money from BP to advertise the event in areas never reached before and paid for its big name entertainment. It's also the first time since Katrina, that WaveFest will return to Waveland's beachfront.

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