By Alyssa Frierson
Members of the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee this week discussed expanding police presence at growing city events.
Concerns are emerging about emergency access and public safety in regard to the number of available police and emergency personnel versus the number of participants at popular downtown events, such as the Concerts on the Square.
“At the end of the day, you want everybody’s experience for those in attendance to be positive, and if something negative happens and they can’t get help, that is not our goal,” said Lisa Rasmussen, president of the city council.
Wausau Police Deputy Chief Matt Barnes proposed increasing the number of community service officers, or CSOs, and providing mentors to CSOs to grow the available police presence.
Barnes is advocating for a dozen police officers and a dozen CSOs in addition to emergency staff at some events. He is also proposing that event applications include emergency management plans that would be subject to approval by fire and police departments.
A new event, Wausau After Dark, will launch this summer, a Thursday evening event that will encompass the entire 400 Block and additional adjacent blocks on Third Street. The event will replace the former Marketplace Thursdays, which were held during the workday.
Supporters say the event is drawing major support and generating excitement from downtown businesses. Valet parking, which is being offered in front of Ciao, will be suspended during the Thursday evening events, which will include alcohol.
Event organizers are expected to coordinate with city departments to ensure public safety at the Wausau After Dark events. Security guards will be posted at intersections, stationed at the beer tent and wandering through the crowd, while restrictions about where alcohol is allowed could be printed on event wristbands.