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City looking into alternatives to MPD for future parades

Since the unexpected cancellation of the Morgantown Pride Parade in June, city officials have been looking into alternative ways to ensure appropriate staffing will be available for traffic control and public safety during public events in Morgantown.

Traditionally, the Morgantown Police Department has been tasked with finding officers to volunteer to work events such as parades; however, recent staffing shortages have made it difficult for the department to guarantee an adequate number of officers for larger gatherings — which led to the cancellation of the Pride Parade.

While city and MPD officials say Monday’s Mon County Fair Kick-Off Parade will have enough officers on scene directing traffic and monitoring safety, the city is looking at another option for future parades — a third-party traffic control service. This would ultimately take the responsibility of directing traffic and manning intersections away from MPD officers.

“The City has been working to ensure we have multiple options to keep parades and other events staffed,” Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli told The Dominion Post. “Parades in particular are difficult to staff due to how many people are required to manage traffic at each of the intersections.

“One option is to utilize a traffic-control service company to simply direct traffic, and allow police officers to focus on management of public safety issues such as crowd control and parade management,” she said.

Muzzarelli said the city has worked directly with MPD’s Special Services Unit to evaluate these traffic-control services and claimed they were generally supportive of this method.

According to Muzzarelli, the cost of the service is comparable to using MPD staff, once salaries and benefits are factored in. But the driving factor for exploring other options was the need to actually have staff available to fill spots when they are needed.

“Parades are difficult to make as mandatory overtime shifts as they are not a public-safety issue, but provide an important part of the quality of life for residents,” she said.

Muzzarelli said the city has spoken with multiple traffic-control agencies, but do not currently have a contractor on retainer at this point.

Muzzarelli assured parades that use the traffic-control services would still have police officers and other city staff as needed to ensure public safety — they just will not be handling traffic control.