Increasing police escort fees affecting local toy drives

Increasing police escort fees affecting local toy drives

YAKIMA, Wash. - Members of local motorcycle clubs, who host toys drives in the area, attended Tuesday’s city council meeting to voice their concerns about an increasing police escort fee

In order to host their toy drives, they must have a police escort, which comes at a cost.

Ray Matthews is a biker who organizes the Christmas toy drives and said having to pay a police escort fee takes money away from the children.

"We're doing this for everybody, it doesn't matter what color or religion or politics you have,” he said. "We're doing it for everybody and that's our argument, why are we excluded."

The group has been hosting toy drives since 1978 and said it's their way to give back to the community, but about three years ago, they began being charged for escorts.

The first year it was around $500, but Matthews said last year they were charged $1500.

Yakima city council member Bill Lover said since the group is non-profit they should only be charged 50 percent of the fee.

Lover said the group is asking for the fee to be waived and city council is reviewing the issue.

"There will be a discussion, I'm sure there's some council members that will lean that way,” he said. "I just don't know if we can legally waive it even."

The fee includes paying police officers and since these events usually fall on weekends, it is overtime pay.

Police officers have volunteered their time in the past but Lover said their union contracts don't allow it.

Lover said he is pushing for the issue to be immediately addressed.

"We asked for it to be on the agenda for the next meeting, in fact I did, I wanted to get it settled,” he said. "If this is a toy run for Christmas and they're not going to have that, they may want to decide on an alternative."

The issue has been send to the public safety committee that is made up of three council members and they will come back with a recommendation.

This topic is scheduled to be on the agenda at the next city council meeting on October 3.

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