Harborfest Vows To Keep City Informed As Plans Progress For 2011, 2012 Celebrations

OSWEGO, NY – Members of the Common Council and Harborfest’s board vowed to keep the lines of communication open as they plan for the 2011 and 2012 festivals.

The two sides meet at City Hall Tuesday night to discuss what type of funds the festival would require in the coming years and what the city could do to assist.

There was some dissension earlier this year when the council was asked to approve a large chunk of overtime for the public works, fire and police departments for Harborfest.

“We are currently planning our 2011 festival and 2012 as well,” said John Scardella, president of the Harborfest board of directors. “The 2012 fest will the 25th anniversary of Harborfest and also being the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.”

With the governor recently cutting state funds that were earmarked to assist with the 200th anniversary, it is important for Harborfest to get a handle on what it is going to do as soon as possible, he pointed out.

The board is formulating Harborfest’s budget for the coming year; the budget comes due in October, Scardella explained.

“The immediate question is will the funding for 2011 be the same as it was in 2010?” Scardella said.

Mike Myers, Second Ward, said the city might be able to tighten up somewhat on the fire and police coverage it provides the festival.

Perhaps it could be staffed a little bit differently, he noted.

“I think the city could tighten its belt on that part and that would bring some of the costs down,” the councilor said. “I would like to see Harborfest move forward. But I think there is some belt tightening that needs to be done.”

Councilor Cathy Santos, Third Ward, asked if the festival received any grant funding or other support.

Harborfest doesn’t exactly fit the criteria for music festivals or arts festivals according to many grant providers, Scardella pointed out.

The rains this past Harborfest diminished revenues for the festival, Tom Van Schaack, executive director, said.

“We’re hoping for a break even year,” Scardella said. “To us, a break even year is a good year.”

Harborfest has made several cuts over the years trying to reduce expanses, Van Schaack noted.

They have gone from a staff of 11, nine most recently, to a staff of 1.5 currently.

“We have really cut staff to the bare bones,” Scardella added. “In my opinion, that has hurt us because we haven’t been able to get out there and try to secure those extra dollars and sponsorships.”

Councilor Shawn Walker, Fourth Ward, asked how Harborfest brings in money to the city. If a vendor goes back to his hometown and pays sales tax there, the Port City doesn’t get that money, he noted.

“I’m hearing this and I want to know,” he said.

“Sales tax generated in Oswego County is supposed to be credited to Oswego County,” Gay Williams, city attorney, explained.

“I’d like to see that in numbers because I don’t believe that it is working that way,” Walker replied. “I really don’t.”

“Are we looking at the same size festival (for 2011) or will you look at what happened this year and make some cuts?” asked Councilor Ron Kaplewicz, Seventh Ward.

“The board met three weeks ago and we’ve begun that discussion – what will the festival look like in 2011,” Scardella said. “We are going under the perception that we’ll have the same sized festival.”

Councilor Connie Cosemento, First Ward, said it would help if there was a way for the festival to address “the free drinkers in Breitbeck (Park).”

“You can change the ordinance if you want to. But right know you can drink (alcohol) in Breitbeck Park 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” Police Chief Mike Dehm pointed out. “You only need a permit when you have a large gathering of people.”

“Then that is something for the council to think about,” Cosemento said.

Scardella pointed out that it would be difficult to enforce / control something like that with upwards of 20,000 people or more at the concerts.

There needs to be more communication between the city and Harborfest officials so things can be better coordinated this year, Kaplewicz said.

The two parties weren’t on the same page as the 2010 fest evolved, Santos agreed.

She suggested the board keep the city informed each step along the way, “and not come to us in May or June with an agenda item for the council to make a decision on with no background … that would help us to make our decision, would hold us accountable for why we’re making the decision and better help you to know what’s coming down the road.”

Scardella agreed the board would keep the city abreast of its actions and would update the public works, fire and police departments following the next board meeting and beyond.

1 Comment

  1. Ms. Cosmentos comments waste the councils time. If the festival needed less government support, why on earth would the beer consumtion matter at the venue?
    What was the point of the discussion in the first place,??/ to keep the city aware of the festivals needs earlier than in the past. Thus helping all involved in making better decisions, proper planning and insuring smooth cooperation. It sounds as she woke up after these items were discussed and felt the need to talk.

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