What's the cost of Unofficial?

By Aaron Navarro

Many students are ramping up for this Friday, putting their green on and amping up for the Unofficial festivities. But what what could it cost a student’s wallet if their Unofficial experience goes wrong?

Tickets vary based on different types of offences and their circumstances, for example a ticket for public urination in Urbana costs $165. The consequence of providing alcohol to a minor in the state of Illinois is a misdemeanor that could cost an offender $25,000.

Champaign Police Sgt. Joe Ketchum emphasized during a police Q&A on Wednesday that students should not be intimidated by the tickets and should just do the right thing.

“We’re trying to get out as much as possible, the message to the students is to be (responsible) and drink responsibly,” Ketchum said. “Take care of each other, look out for one another and realize if you realize somebody is in trouble call 911 so we can get there and help them.”

In the case that 911 is called for a medical emergency, both Carle Foundation Hospital Arrow Ambulance services and PRO Ambulance Service are at the ready. But it’ll come at a cost.

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Deb Hopp, a PRO Ambulance billing representative, said an average ambulance run could cost the patient $613.92. In addition, the drive has a mileage fee of $19.70 per mile. These fees are all billed to one’s insurance.

“We do put on a couple of extra trucks for the peak hours. We’re paying our staff and maintenance extra during an event like Unofficial,” Hopp said. “Every time we turn a wheel on an ambulance it costs us money, whether it’s for the workers, drivers or maintenance.”

For an Arrow Ambulance service call, a basic run could cost about $800 according to Carle Public Relations Specialist Laura Mabry.

Mabry said that a “basic” run includes emergency services and that there could be a cost increase “based on the severity of the patient’s situation.”

“This is just from what I know, but there really isn’t an average cost,” Mabry said. “It depends on what they’re being treated for. A broken arm is different than a heart attack, cost wise.”

Though Mabry said the hospital is prepared to treat people over Unofficial weekend, she said Carle is a Level I Trauma Center and as such is prepared to support the community’s emergency needs no matter the day.

According to a Champaign Police Department press release regarding Unofficial, there were 14 calls for ambulance services and eight patients were transported to the hospital in 2015. [http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Unofficial-2015-Media-Statistics-1-1.pdf page 14]

Champaign Police citations during Unofficial 2015 decreased in comparison to 2014: from 271 city ordinance violations in 2014 to 138 violations in 2015.[https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2015/03/unofficial-citations-decrease-in-2015]

Despite the decrease, the weekend of Unofficial still brings a spike in activity to campus compared to other weeks in the year. 

“The event resulted in an increase of over 300 percent in calls for service from the previous week,” said Champaign Lieutenant Jim Clark in an annual 2014 Champaign Police report. “City and University officials, local law enforcement, student groups and business owners continue to work together to address this issue.” COPY: [http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/2014-Annual-Report.pdf]

Unofficial does not only cost ambulance services and students who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, but also local police departments who have to pay for overtime hours. And because the Champaign Police Department recently lost a grant from Community Elements to help cover Unofficial costs, the expense is placed on the departments, the city and the campus.

“It is taking a bite of the budget for us,” Ketchum said. “The money paying for Unofficial this year is coming straight from the city (Champaign) and the University and Urbana, whoever else is involved.”

Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen said after a city council meeting on Tuesday that the city does still have costs from past years from police overtime.

“It’s significant for us,” she said.

University of Illinois Police Department Captain Matt Myrick, said employing overtime forces on Unofficial cost $11,769 in 2015. Pat Wade, UIPD spokesman, said while all campus departments are trying to figure out ways to save money, they still have a job to do. 

“All University departments, including (the UIPD), are trying to figure ways to save money and operate in this unprecedented budget predicament,” Wade said. “We nonetheless have a responsibility to do our part to provide police services to our campus community.”

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