Vibes Will Return Footing Police Costs

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.”



  1. I attended the meeting last night until the Council went into Executive Session to discuss a Tom McCarthy issue.

    Andre Baker was the sole voice to request a spreadsheet of the contractual data over the years, something he had sought and expected to receive months ago. Sue Brannelly did not have such info. One can guess neither does the Budget & Appropriations Committee on which she serves. And that should make everyone a bit crazy because POLICE OVERTIME has been a subject of worrisome variances for years.

    The meeting was chock full of necessary year-end votes where a Committee meeting was held earlier in the evening, print information was scarce for the necessary committee quorums (none for the public), and the rules were suspended so these issues could get onto the Agenda at the last moment and get voted upon at this last meeting of the Council in 2012.
    Is this an OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT way for the Administration and the City Council to do business and serve the public? Unlikely, but time will tell.

  2. Sue Brannelly stated last night the signing of the Vibes contract was for the good of the city. I wonder what she meant by that. This contract has cost the city money in PD overtime. The OT is because of increased drug use at the concerts, so what is for the good of the city? It seems to me Sue Brannelly is carrying the water for the mayor.
    Council President Tom McCarthy, D-133, said when he supported the previous deal, “I didn’t understand how big and immense this thing was.” Where the hell have you been all these years?
    None on the Council understood this contract or what it will and has cost the city. Why is that?
    Could it be they have not received any paperwork or costs for these concerts? Could it be they did receive this information and just did not bother to read it? I have a question for the council. Do you get tired of being the administration’s foils? Do you tire of saying yes when you don’t even know what you are voting for?
    Please all of you, do the city a favor and RESIGN.

  3. I think that this is good for the City in that the venue is tremendous and a ton of people come in and have a good experience in Bridgeport.

    Never believed Hayes when he said he might move … If he could make more money, more easily, then he would have moved … So I am glad these costs are now being covered.

    Sticking point is Finch administration deluding Council and taxpayers this was being totally covered this past year … Dovetails with JML’s way too wordy descriptions of lack of accountability.

    The problem remains too many financial details are not given to Council or taxpayers … Compounded by having a Council president and many other council members working for the City and they won’t rock the boat.

    Given the candidate pool that runs for these seats (Mayor and Council), this will not change.

  4. Denis OMalley,
    Way too negative a conclusion to your post, isn’t it? Did I use too many words to share this “judgement” with you? Maybe you can hop in the “candidate pool” or join Fardy and me at the B&A meeting tomorrow night. We can “pool” our thoughts and splash some ink on how the processes and structures can improve, NO? Time will tell.

  5. Welcome back, Vibes!!! Barnum would be proud!!! The Vibes is probably the best and only thing going on that is good in Bridgeport.
    What surprises me is how the Vibes is able not to buckle under the weight of police overtime. These guys see this as pure gravy. They stand around doing nothing. Some are personable and some have chips on their shoulders. I believe this is excessive and uncalled for. It’s costing the taxpayers in the long run as their pensions are largely based on their overtime and their highest three year’s income. These OT costs drive many good things out of Bridgeport. That is why the Fairfield County Irish Festival left for Trumbull.


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