Musikfest to Pay Less, City to Provide Less

Under new mutual agreement between ArtsQuest and Bethlehem, Musikfest will get fewer city services and will cut its payment by about $50,000.


ArtsQuest plans to pay the city of Bethlehem about $50,000 less for services rendered during Musikfest, as the city plans to cut back on police, fire and emergency medical protection that will be provided at festival venues.

ArtsQuest is still in the process of paying the city $285,000 it owes for services provided during the 2011 festival.

Under the terms of a mutual agreement, which City Council’s Finance Committee discussed on Monday night, that payment is expected to drop to $235,000 for the 2012 festival.

However, the city will also be providing less manpower and services to the festival. For example:

  • ArtsQuest will hire a private ambulance services to staff festival venues, eliminating the need for Bethlehem EMS to keep personnel on scene at all times. That alone cost $14,000 in 2011, according to Walt Keiper, the organization’s senior vice president for finance and administration.
  • Two fewer firefighters will be kept on call at the campus during afternoon hours of the festival, said Fire Chief George Barkanic.
  • Streets personnel will be cut by more than half as ArtsQuest staff will perform cleaning services at the majority of the platzes, though city staff will continue to clean Main Street.
  • Electrical bureau personnel will continue to work on festival setup, but will not be on duty during festival hours. They will be available on call in case of emergencies, said Michael Alkhal, the city’s director of Public Works.
  • The will no longer be providing security to festival venues during the overnight hours – a detail which amounted to guarding chairs and equipment. ArtsQuest will instead provide its own staff to watch the festival venues during overnight hours.

Bethlehem Police Chief Jason Schiffer assured council members that public safety will not be compromised even with fewer officers on scene during off-peak hours. Festival staffing will be cut by about a quarter during weekday afternoons. But police presence during the festival’s peak evening and weekend hours will remain virtually the same as they have ever been, Schiffer said.

Council members made it clear that they do not want public safety at the festival to be compromised.

“We cannot afford a major incident because that would be a black eye on the festival,” said Councilman Robert Donchez.

Keiper said ArtsQuest’s motivation to reduce city services to the festival was twofold.

First, there is a desire to reduce the city’s financial burden as Keiper noted former Controller Meg Holland’s repeated complaints that ArtsQuest never paid its full share of benefits to employees who work at the festival.

Second, ArtsQuest has a desire to reduce its own costs, especially after its experience of a year ago when six out of 10 days of wet weather led to an . It was the first time in a decade that festival attendance did not top one million visitors, dropping all the way to 860,000 people.

Dana Grubb June 26, 2012 at 04:45 PM
My biggest concern is what appears to be an overall cutback in public safety in Bethlehem over the last eight months. First, 7 police officer positions were cut out of the city's 2012 budget. In that same budget the mayor closed the fire station on Dewberry Avenue. Now coverage by the city's public safety services during the single largest event in Bethlehem is being reduced in favor of private services. In this year's city budget is a $9.375 million casino host fee, a host fee that is paid for the purpose of addressing the impact of a casino operation in the community in which is located. If that host fee in Bethlehem had not been squandered; and if the city's finances had been better managed by mayor Callahan instead of three consecutive years of deficits totaling $14.2 million (with another deficit probable for 2011 once the city's audit is finalized); then a lot of these cuts may have never been necessary. Police officers and firefighters I've spoken with are becoming extremely concerned with these cuts in service, for our safety and their own. That combination causes me concern for our community's overall safety, and I really pray that nothing happens that cannot be handled by these dwindling and very important services.
Jim Gregory June 26, 2012 at 06:16 PM
When we are receiving millions in host fees from the casino, we shouldn't be shorting public safety. Many have complained that we should have received tax cuts from the casino monies. That was never to be the case at the municipal level. However, at the very least, public services as police and fire should not only been maintained at the current level but improved, considering the monies flowing into the city from the casino.
Rachel Thompson June 26, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Every year the volunteers get less while the corporate "volunteers" get the best jobs and time slots. It used to be that volunteers got a good meal and first crack at good seats for paid shows, now the good seats are reserved for the corporations and the corporate volunteers' bosses get the good seats. Ironic that the corporate volunteers get paid by employers while the company gets a tax right-off. So much for the local community. No wonder the former volunteer coordinator, Jo, retired and moved away with lips zipped tight.
Rachel Thompson June 26, 2012 at 09:18 PM
yeah and Sands was supposed to save the day- where did that money go?
Staberdearth June 27, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Perhaps the shortfall can be made up by sellng Chinese goods masquerading as authentic German collectibles.. Oh! That was already tried? Ooops. Hope no one got fired... What is it with Parks? The should do a commercial on him, "The world's most reviled festival conceiver." Not exactly a warm and fuzzy guy in the human relations department is he? "...I don't always act amicably but when I do, you will be the first to be amazed...". I go to Musikfest, but every year, bit by bit, it continues to further underwhelm me, more and more. Some year I will hit some sort of limit and it will be erased from expending any enegy to go there as cost and inconveneince far outweigh benefit. The down trend is not looking good. The Oktoberfest thing from 2011 was an abject joke. Think I'll just hang out at the Wooden Match... Note the Musikfest web site spends an ordinate amount of time describing the south venues in detail. The north ones? Er, not so much... Telling.


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