From Brian Lockhart, CT Post:
Concert promoter Ken Hays returns to Seaside Park this July, but he’s going to pay.
The City Council approved a new contract Monday allowing Hays to stage his Gathering of the Vibes music festival for another five years. But in return his rent is increasing and the Vibes–not taxpayers–will shoulder the overtime costs of policing the crowds of 20,000.
Over the summer Hays threatened to find another venue because of rising expenses, but said outside City Hall that he was comfortable with the terms.
“I feel like we have a fair deal moving forward that Vibes can handle,” he said Monday night. “Clearly the administration feels the Vibes is a good thing for Bridgeport. And I do, too.”
He added he will raise ticket prices for some attendees.
Under the just-expired five-year contract Hays paid $40,000 in rent, provided performance bonds, reimbursed the city for manpower and cleanup, and also donated tens-of-thousands of dollars to the parks department.
But beginning in 2010 the city, responding to some security problems at the festival and two drug-related deaths, upped the police presence.
And while the tougher contract terms indicate Mayor Bill Finch’s administration was aware of the overtime problem, that was not what the administration was saying during the 2012 Vibes in July. At the time, Finch’s office claimed Hays paid for the police costs.
Finally, after five months, the city last week responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by Hearst Newspapers for Vibes documents that showed in fact taxpayers paid for most of the heightened security.
In 2010, police officers earned nearly a quarter of a million dollars in overtime. Hays reimbursed the department only $112,351.
In 2011, police overtime was $250,205, with less than half the amount, or about $115,000, covered by the Vibes.
Less-detailed documentation for 2012 indicated the Vibes paid $118,000 of a $319,000 bill.
“I was very much upset,” Councilman Amy Marie Vizzo-Paniccia, D-134, said Monday. Although Hays has downplayed what he earns on the event, saying some years he lost money on the Vibes, Vizzo-Paniccia is skeptical.
The new contract requires the Vibes pay police $250,000 plus an annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase.
Police Chief Joseph Gaudett on Monday assured members of the council he will “live within” those terms.
Asked afterward whether his department ever sought full reimbursement from the Vibes in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Gaudett said, “I don’t collect. The administration collects.”
But he said it might not have been fair because the initial contract never contemplated the need for so many cops.
“We did change the rules half-way through,” Gaudett said.
Council President Tom McCarthy, D-133, said when he supported the previous deal, “I didn’t understand how big and immense this thing was.”
On top of the additional police overtime costs, Hays’ rent is increasing to $50,000, also with a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment. The Vibes must also reimburse the city for wastewater processing and agree to try and hire minority and locally owned businesses.
And the city can back out after two years.
Councilman Andre Baker Jr. cast the lone vote against the new deal, citing a lack of financial data.
Some have questioned whether the Vibes is a boost for the city’s economy. Finch’s office in July told Hearst the city would conduct a cost-benefit analysis before bringing the event back, but council members were at a loss last night to provide any such data to Baker.
“I’m looking for some numbers to see if the city is actually making any kind of money or even if we’re breaking even,” he told his colleagues. “I thought we were going to look into that, get some more documentation.”