Drug-Sniffing Dogs at the Comcast Center?
Selectmen may take measures such as drug-sniffing dogs to combat the issues at the Comcast Center.
Local resident and businessman Karl Clemmey says he has had it with the many hours Mansfield selectmen and public safety staff spend on Comcast Center issues every year, and wants the board to come up with a total evaluation of the venue's impact on the town.
In the latest of a recent spate of discussions about Comcast, part of the yearly entertainment license renewal process, board members have tried to tackle the problems that crop up on a regular basis during the summer concert season.
Last summer saw a deviation from the usual series of noise complaints and traffic snarls, with a savage beating of a single teenager by a group of Mansfield youths, and an alleged rape occurring in a parked bus.
Selectmen have been particularly concerned with the rate of under-aged drinking, and the inevitable social fallout that results from it.
Wednesday, Clemmey told the board he is tired of his taxes paying for town services that are required to handle the problems engendered by the concert season.
His statements followed assertions by selectman George Dentino that the board should get serious about the heavy-drinking parking lot crowd, and do something more to damp down the incidents that call for so much police response.
Dentino suggested the wording of the 2012 license include a provision for re-opening license discussions at any time during the concert season, as a response to violations of the decibel level cap or the 11 p.m. deadline for the final curtain.
"There has to be a way of protecting the community without waiting another year," he said.
He also suggested police and Comcast security ramp up checks on vehicles for liquor.
"My suggestion would be to search all vehicles entering the lot," he said, adding police should call in drug-sniffing dogs, and confiscate all contraband.
"Pile up all the beer and wine and call the newspapers," he said.
Dentino also suggested an over-21 parking lot for tailgating activities.
Clemmey, whose statements came in the public comment period, said he pays three times as much in taxes for his shopping plaza on Route 140, Erin's Center, than Comcast pays, in spite of the fact that the concert season has such a large impact on the community.
"How much are we spending if we get $150,000 in taxes and you're spitting out $100,000?" he asked. He pointed out the townspeople bought a new prisoner transport van, and Comcast bought another one. Both, he said, make frequent trips back and forth between Comcast and the police station during big concerts.
"It costs a lot of money to investigate the drugs, the alcohol, and the beatings," he said.
But Mansfield Town Manager Bill Ross said differentiating between what Comcast pays for and what public services are due to any resident is critical in any discussion of taxes and the protection of the public.
"Comcast pays for their security," Ross said. "It's inappropriate to mix the two. If a crime occurs, police will respond no matter where it is."
Gladiola Terrace resident Pam Gagnon agreed with Clemmey in some of his concerns. She said the investigations police must take part in because of Comcast incidents "clearly exceed what any resident of business would realize." She echoed Clemmey's call for an overview of the total impact of Comcast to town services.
Chairman Jess Aptowitz said he was not averse to trying to estimate the cost to town services.
"If we have 300 investigations a year, yeah, we should be looking at it," he said. "We could ask the (police) chief to look back and tally the cost of the investigations - then we would be happy to share that."
Ross said he would ask Police Chief Arthur O'Neil to put some figures together and would report back to the board.
The license subcommittee will meet sometime in the next two weeks.