Oswego Council Maintains Support For Harborfest

OSWEGO, NY – Harborfest 2011 could be a reduced version of the summer festival that has attracted nearly 250,000 visitors to the Port City each summer for more than two decades.

At its meeting Monday night, the Common Council voted 5-2 to approve the transfer of funding ($77,700) into the police, fire, traffic and parks accounts to cover anticipated overtime costs for Harborfest 2010.

The funding for overtime for Harborfest was transferred out of the appropriate budget accounts during the 2010 budget process.

In order to support this year’s celebration, it will be necessary to transfer funding from Account 1990.462 to the appropriate accounts under the fire ($15,000), police ($29,000), traffic ($4,700) and parks ($29,000), the mayor told the councilors.

Voting against the move were councilors Shawn Walker (R-Fourth Ward) and Bill Sharkey (R-Sixth Ward).

Even the councilors who supported the move agreed that the city cannot continue to spend so much on Harborfest related matters in the coming years.

“If we do not have enough money to run the city of Oswego properly, should we be taking taxpayers’ dollars to fund Harborfest’s party?” asked Sharkey. “I have received numerous calls from people in different wards, including my own, they’re saying they can’t afford the sewer fee, can’t afford the taxes, can’t afford to live here. And, we’re going to fund a hundred grand for Harborfest?”

He said he thought Harborfest was “put on notice” when the council moved the funds out of the overtime budgets during the budget processes.

“If they want to have the party, they should fund it. Now we backtrack and waste more taxpayers’ dollars on a party that we can’t afford,” he said. “Harborfest is not going to support the city of Oswego. But we are asked to support them. It’s their party, they should pay for it. I don’t know what anybody can be looking at supporting this dead horse year after year.”

The city has already approved resolutions allowing Harborfest to use public space, Council President Dan Donovan (R-Fifth Ward) pointed out. The opening night and Friday night acts have been announced.

“It’s a little late to pull the plug now on Harborfest this year,” he said.

The council and Harborfest officials can get together and discuss next year, he added.

Councilor Connie Cosemento (D-First Ward) agreed.

“We have to give Harborfest due notice,” she said. “As we do our (2011) budget, we may not even have the money (for the overtime budgets) so there won’t be any money to transfer. I will support tonight’s resolution, but I will also support making changes in the future.”

Sharkey said he thought that last August when the council was working in this year’s budget and removed the overtime that they were pulling the plug on Harborfest then.

“I will never fund another dollar for Harborfest when this city is looking at $100 million worth of debt,” Sharkey said.

Walker said he didn’t want to shut down Harborfest. But he questioned why the city’s taxpayers had to fund it.

Cosemento said she wanted to clarify that he city wasn’t giving Harborfest money. The funds were for overtime pay for city workers, she pointed out.

Sharkey offered a clarification for her clarification.

“If we did not have Harborfest we wouldn’t have to pay overtime for any department. If Harborfest ceased doing this, all these (overtime) numbers would be zero,” he said. “The taxpayers of Oswego lose again.”

Councilor Cathy Santos (R-Third Ward) said she’d support Monday’s resolution for safety reasons. However, she noted that the city had to find ways to reduce funds associated with Harborfest starting next year.

“It seems to me that the discussion with the Harborfest people needs to start early; we need to talk about this. It should not be on the backs of the citizens of the city,” she said. “And, we also need to hear from the city residents about how they feel.”

Sharkey accused his fellow councilors ignoring any calls that they got that were anti-Harborfest or just didn’t answer their phones.

The mayor admonished him for his remarks.

“I take serious offense to someone saying to me, and anyone else here, that they skirt their phone calls. I just resent that, it’s wrong,” Donovan added.

Many city businesses benefit greatly from Harborfest, he noted.

“Harborfest is now put on notice,” Councilor Mike Myers (R-Second Ward) said that after this year, funding from the city for Harborfest related work will dry up.

Councilor Ron Kaplewicz said the city was between a rock and a hard place.

They need to come to an understanding with Harborfest as to who is responsible for what, he said.

“I agree we have to do something different next year,” Donovan said.

1 Comment

  1. All we have to do is look at ‘old pictures’ of Oswego BEFORE Harborfest,
    and we might understand the POSTIVE impact that it has on the community.
    Just as most of us get complacent with our homes when we don’t get
    company, and working hard when relatives and friends come to visit
    (painting, carpeting, even remodelling), so has this City improved in
    the years since we started our ‘welcome home to Oswego’ little party.
    Because, truthfully, Harborfest has not remained a large eastern
    seaboard venue, as originally planned in the early years, but has become
    something wonderful to do for local residents and their visitors. At
    least this is what I have seen from my vantage point.

    City parks have flowers, the trees/shrubs are pruned, and the walkways
    maintained. We’ve even created spaces for events at this annual summer
    celebration of our city. Home owners mow, seed, and even paint their
    homes. Downtown got a drop-dead gorgeous renovation since Harborfest began.

    HOW can our city even consider ending this celebration? Because, quite
    frankly, the little bit we as taxpayers pay for ‘services’ for this
    event, is but a small portion of what large business and small
    businesses alike donate to make this event possible. A lot of that
    overtime could be considered generation housekeeping that really needs
    to be done ANYWAY! Without Harborfest, would be indeed sculpt our parks
    and clean our city in the same way? Or not at all?

    I remember Oswego before Harborfest. It was dingy, and quite frankly,
    not a showplace I would want strangers to see, let alone my family.
    Buildings needed painting and the signage for much of the business
    district was crude and amateurish. Sidewalks were broken, and little
    dandelions were climbing through the cracks. We had a sort of urban
    blight look to our fair city.

    Get some old photos out, City Officials, and take a look at what we use
    to look like, and what we have now. I, personally, don’t want to go back

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