The Oneonta Common Council approved a permit Tuesday night for OH-Fest’s return to Neahwa Park on April 27 and for a joint bid with the Oneonta School District to obtain grants to build a new salt shed.
Approval for the OH-Fest permit came on a 6-0 vote, with council members Maureen Hennessy and Larry Malone absent. But it came with a caveat — an amendment offered by Mayor Dick Miller after council member Michael Lynch raised concerns about the firmness of new security arrangement with the Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta student associations, which organize the event.
The amendment would make clear that the council reserves the right to withdraw the permit if it or Police Chief Dennis Nayor decide the organizers are not holding to the agreement.
Lynch said he didn’t want a repetition of the 2011 OH-Fest, when the Oneonta Police Department provided security for the festival’s Neahwa Park concert and was stretched to the breaking point by a crowd estimated at 10,000, leaving the surrounding area, including his Fourth Ward, largely unprotected.
“We basically surrendered our neighborhood that day,” he said.
The event was held on the campuses last year.
This year, the organizers will employ private security operatives and Hartwick College security officers create to a ratio of one security person for every 250 concertgoers, Nayor said. With 7,000 people expected to attend, that would mean 28 unarmed security people inside the concert venue.
As for the Police Department, “it’ll be our full complement, everyone who we have available,” Nayor said.
“We’re just going to be able to reallocate our staff so we’re not on the inside perimeter, where we shouldn’t be, where we shouldn’t have been the last time, two years ago.
“We’re going to be there, available to effect arrests, deal some sort of a riot situation or some sort of a public-safety issue,” he said.