We've all heard of the horrors inflicted upon the Arcata Plaza during this past Halloween's bacchanal. McKinley's statue debauched. Grass embedded with broken glass and decorated in human fecal matter. Revelers jabbed with needles. Drunken revelers hauled off to the emergency room or jail. Planters and irrigation systems assaulted and plants killed. Storefront windows busted.
And we know what New Year's Eve on the Plaza was like as a result of those Halloween excesses: tick-tock, tick-tock, nothing but the sound of a few dozen cops' hearts beating in vigilant, calm rhythm as they stood in rank around the temporarily fenced off Plaza as the hour of 2012 approached. That, plus occasional grumblings from would-be Plaza partiers stopping to stare at the empty Plaza and the law enforcement spectacle, a steady festive chatter from the smallish crowd clumped alongside bar row, a drum session nearby and other small pops of elation and frustration.
And the next day? A very clean Arcata Plaza.
Now comes the judgment and second-guessing. Was it worth it to cordon off the Plaza and kill the people's New Year's buzz? How did the two measures measure up -- the cost of cleaning up after the worst property-damaging impromptu party in memory on the Plaza, versus the cost of preventing another such debacle?
No doubt some folks would say that a party with cleanup is better, at any cost, than no party at all. They're likely not the ones doing the cleanup...
Anyway, here are some figures:
Halloween cleanup total cost: At least $8,600, probably more
Arcata Parks Superintendent Dan Diemer says that's $3,600 for the supplies, equipment and 40 hours of straight time it took 10 city staff to pick up and remove 3,000 pounds of garbage, scrub off graffiti, pick glass out of the lawn, remove human excrement, sweep the streets around the Plaza and take out broken landscaping; and another estimated $5,000 or more to repair the Plaza's eight damaged planters and their irrigation systems and replace the plants -- a job that has been postponed until the city has the money.
Not included in the total cost: repairs to damaged storefronts, such as broken windows.
New Year's Eve enforcement total cost: About $7,000
First city parks staff put up a fence. The material was free because they had it already. And it cost the city about $900 for a total of five hours of city staff overtime (at time-and-a-half) to put up and take down the fence, said Diemer.
Then they deployed law enforcement officers. The Arcata Police Department asked for reinforcements from six other jurisdictions, who all obliged at no cost to Arcata in keeping with a mutual aid agreement they've all signed.
The Journal called each agency for figures. Some provided more information than others:
Arcata Police: APD Chief Tom Chapman refused to say how many personnel his department deployed, stating it could pose a safety risk to reveal such info about an investigation. He said the total costs in overtime -- he didn't say what kind of overtime -- for his officers came to about $2,800.
Humboldt State University Police: Lt. Kris Mechals said the department assigned one on-duty officer to the Plaza for five hours and sent an on-duty supervisor there for one hour. Total cost for both: $365 in straight time.
Eureka Police: Project Manager Lisa Pulver didn't have the total costs yet, because payroll hadn't been done, so she aimed high: the cost to send two sergeants and one officer to the Plaza for six-and-a-half hours, assuming they were being paid time-and-a-half overtime at the highest rate, could be come to $1,077.
Humboldt County District Attorney's Office: We know the DA's office sent a chief investigator and an investigator to the Plaza, but despite leaving numerous phone messages we still haven't heard back on what it cost the department to send them. Cost: unknown.
Fortuna Police: Office Supervisor Robin Paul said her department sent a detective and a sergeant, who were there from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. She estimated their deployment, calculated in straight time, cost the department $664 ($352 for the sergeant and $312 for the detective).
Ferndale Police: Officer Heath Bohacik said his department sent one officer to the Plaza. He didn't know for how long nor at what rate of pay, and the department's computer system was down because of renovations. Cost: unknown.
Rio Dell: Chief Graham Hill sent one officer for eight hours on regular duty salary -- between $328 and $340 (he wouldn't say exactly). So we'll call it $334.
The known costs add up to $6,140. We figured in another roughly $300 each for the two DA investigators and one Ferndale officer, assuming they were there eight hours, to reach the estimated total cost.