Catering, dry cleaning payments higher in Victoria

Analysis of expenditures shows difference in approach between municipalities

Victoria is paying more for certain services than its neighbours.

In 2011, the city paid a total of $82,924 to QV Cafe and Bakery and Truffles Catering Group, according to Victoria’s latest public bodies expenditures report. The document lists all accounts paid in excess of $25,000.

Of the catering expenses, $29,000 was spent to provide 4,000 meals to people detained in police jail cells. The remainder was spent on catering municipal and police meetings such as public advisory committee meetings, or events where the city hosts dignitaries.

Expect Victoria’s catering expenses to be lower in 2012.

“It’s going to be going down,” said Coun. Geoff Young. City council already voted to give up its lunches provided during meetings.

In Saanich, the approach to meetings is more low-key, said finance director Paul Murray.

“I’m pretty darn sure we would be nowhere near that sort of (expenditure),” he said. “Quite often (meetings) will have coffee, but we’ll make the coffee ourself.”

While staff might buy cookies or fruit for some meetings, “it’s rare that we’d have something catered,” he said.

While Victoria still provides food at public advisory committee meetings, that could be next on the chopping block, as council focuses on budget reductions over the coming months.

Dry cleaning for police uniforms is also more generous in Victoria.

Last year, the city paid $81,651 to Individual Drycleaners, mostly for cleaning police uniforms. Calculated as an average expenditure per officer (including members and reserves), it comes to $269 last year.

In Saanich, the police department spends approximately $155 per officer, paid as a taxable benefit.

The RCMP operates differently. Rather than centralizing dry cleaning to one company, it gives officers a dry-cleaning allowance of $5 every two weeks, which comes to about $130 annually. It’s not a perfect comparison, however, as some specialized units receive more and additional dry cleaning may be available in special circumstances.

Victoria police spokesperson Mike Russell defended his department’s extra expense.

“For less than a dollar a day, I don’t have to throw any clothes in my home washing machine with people’s urine or barf on it, that doesn’t go in with my kids’ (laundry) – we’re pretty sure that’s a good investment,” he said.

The Victoria department deals with downtown issues, such as more frequent fights and intoxicated people.

“Those are all things that come onto our clothes, that we come into contact with on a daily basis,” Russell said.

Victoria isn’t the most generous force in B.C. when it comes to uniform cleaning.

The Vancouver police department pays for both dry cleaning and laundering. Its $556,800 budget comes to roughly $427 per officer.

While some forces have moved to what’s called wash-and-wear uniforms that don’t require dry cleaning. It’s an idea the Saanich police have investigated, but rejected. The clothes don’t last as long when washed, so the cost of dry cleaning is made up for in the longevity of the uniforms, said spokesperson Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

rholmen@vicnews.com

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