The bill is in.
Keene is charging the Keene Pumpkin Festival’s organizer more than $90,000 for overtime paid to the police officers, firefighters and public works staff who worked at the Pumpkin Festival and responded to the riots that erupted on the festival’s outskirts.
Festival organizer Let It Shine agrees each year to partially pay for overtime costs necessary to staff the annual event.
In recent years the total overtime costs for police, firefighters and department of public works staff have ranged from $76,246 to $94,557. This year, it swelled to $147,662.
The costs cover officers and staff who were assigned to work during the festival on Saturday, Oct. 18, but had to stay to help respond to the hordes of young people who filled the streets near the Keene State College campus in riots throughout the afternoon and evening.
Young adults have flocked each year from all over New England and beyond to Keene State on the weekend of the Pumpkin Festival for parties planned to coincide with the official event.
Thousands came this year, and events got out of hand when partiers gathered en masse in yards and streets and began throwing beer bottles, cans and other objects into the air and at police.
Police have arrested dozens in connection with the riots.
Hundreds of people attended an emotional forum earlier this month to discuss the future of the festival and the repercussions of the riots.
The bill this year was about $40,000 more than in recent years. Let It Shine was billed $50,841.32 for overtime costs for the 2013 festival, and $52,671.98 in 2012. The organization normally covers this cost with money it receives from private sponsorships and donations.
The City Council annually approves an amount that Keene contributes to the festival in in-kind services.
City officials then deduct that amount from the total overtime costs before billing Let It Shine.
This year the council approved $57,000 for that deduction.
After deducting that amount from the total, the city’s finance department issued an invoice Friday morning to Let It Shine for $90,662.
Police and fire officials from more than 20 towns and N.H. State Police assisted Keene police during the riots.
In addition, the Cheshire County and Belknap County sheriff’s departments, nine New Hampshire and Vermont fire departments and 10 ambulance companies and the state Metropolitan Medical Response System N.H. Medical Task Force 1 responded.
Because State Police who responded specifically to the riots were working on their own budgeted time, they did not charge the city for the costs they incurred, Keene City Manager John MacLean said Friday.
MacLean said the fact that the city was not billed for those costs kept the bill for Let It Shine down.
“It could have been a lot worse,” MacLean said.
How Let It Shine pays the bill is its decision, Mac-
“They’re going to get a big invoice, and it’s up to them to figure out what to do with it,” he said.
The organization, led by Ruth Sterling and a seven-member board of directors, does have the option of asking the City Council for help waiving part the bill, MacLean said.
John F. Hayes, the board’s secretary and treasurer, said Friday that he had not yet seen the invoice and could not comment on the amount or how Let It Shine will pay it.
Let It Shine has not yet said whether it will apply to the City Council for permits to run the festival next year.
City Councilor Mitchell H. Greenwald, who chairs the council’s finance, operations and personnel committee, said Friday that the bill’s payment would likely come before the council if Let It Shine decides it can’t afford to pay it.
“(Let It Shine) cannot just be excused from it, that’s taxpayer money that’s to be expended,” he said. “It’s not unexpected that there was a huge bill.”
He said because many of the rioters were Keene State students, the college should be asked to help with its payment.
“I think there’ll be a conversation about that — I can’t imagine what the answer should be, but (the college) should be held responsible for what this charge will be,” Greenwald said.
Keene State spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte declined to comment Friday on the possibility of the college footing part of the bill.
Randy L. Filiaut, a City Councilor also on the council’s finance, operations and personnel committee, said Let It Shine should be responsible for the weekend’s overtime costs because the group had previously agreed to pay them.
“I certainly applaud them ... they certainly went out on a limb, but this is what happens when you go out on a limb,” he said.
“If they ask us to forgive it, they’re asking city taxpayers to fund it,” he said. “In my opinion, they are responsible for the $90,000 — that’s the risk that they took.”
Filiaut said the full bill must be paid before he will consider voting for the license for another pumpkin festival.
“If you make money, God bless you — enjoy the profits — if you don’t make money, God bless you but you still have to pay your bill,” he said.