UPDATE: Riverbend security to include off-duty officers, private security
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - When the Riverbend Festival gates open, Chattanooga police officers will be inside.
"We didn't know if we'd get any Chattanooga Police Officers and that was the crucial part," explains Chip Baker, Executive Director of Friends of the Festival.
In the past, about 100 officers and 30 deputies worked the riverfront during the week-long festival.
It's a service that came at no charge to festival organizers.
"Most events our size usually get services or money from the city, county, state," says Baker, "we have always gotten services, which we've been appreciative of."
This year the city decided to charge Friends of the Festival.
"We're talking six figures," answers Baker, when asked how much the city was asking.
Friends of the Festival planned to use private security officers instead.
Chattanooga Police Officers would only patrol outside the gates.
Baker says a second look showed he could not contract with enough private security personnel to comply with the approved security plan and ensure safety.
He asked the city to provide 30 off-duty officers.
Baker wouldn't say how much he'll have to pay, but says having officers with arresting powers is important.
Last year, Chattanooga Police Officers arrested 32 people at Riverbend.
In 2011, officers took 55 people into custody.
"We just want to make it real clear, safety is number one," Baker stresses.
It's safety Baker says festival goers will ultimately pay for.
"Whatever cost we bear we'll probably see on the pin price next year," he says.
Baker says he's still in talks with Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond about what role his deputies will play in this year's festival.
Baker says to expect bag searches at the gate as a part of this year's new security plan.
He hasn't said which security firm Friends of the Festival plans to partner with.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.