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JUNE 10 - JUNE 18, 2014

Brochey Wins Concession on Artpark Subsidy by Town

By Frank Parlato

June 10, 2014

Ron Winkley
Dennis Brochey

Now that it's said and done for this year, perhaps it is time to take a look at what happened.

Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey, the lone Democrat on the town board, failed to stop the Republican-controlled board from subsidizing Artpark & Company, Inc., this year.

But he did win a minor victory on the cost of that subsidy. Republicans on the board, led by Councilman Ron Winkley, who doubled as a longtime Artpark & Company board member, thwarted Brochey's attempts to get the not-for-profit corporation to pay for its own existence.

In 2013, the town's contribution to Artpark & Company was $104,000 in direct payments, an estimated, $74,500 in police services for crowd and traffic enforcement during Artpark & Company's Tuesday and Wednesday night concerts, and an estimated $9,350 in manpower to install and remove signs and barricades on concert nights along the state-owned Robert Moses Parkway - as required by the NYS DOT to help manage traffic.

All together, the cost to Lewiston for the year was $187,850.This year, Brochey got a reluctant Republican board to agree to allow Artpark & Company to pay $40,000 towards police and parkway signage out of their $100,000 payment from the town, making the net cost to the town for 2014, an estimated $147,850.

Founded in 1997, Artpark and Company, Inc., is registered as a not-for-profit corporation and operates as a separate legal entity, licensed, until 2017, by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to manage programs at the Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, a 150-acre park on the Lower Niagara River. Artpark & Company has a volunteer boardmade up of 38 members and a 16-member advisory council, according to its website The members of the board are, for the most part, largely inactive, and include mostly community leaders who do not live in Lewiston.

At a March 20 board meeting, less than a third of the board attended.

Some of the board members are Brian Geary, senior investment consultant at Courier Capital Corporation; Carmen Cipolla, of Time Warner Cable; former town attorney Michael J. Dowd; Lewiston Sentinel Publisher Skip Mazenauer; Carl J. Montante, Jr., Robert Rich III, Rajat Shah, Vincent Agnello, Esq., of Niagara University , State Parks Deputy Commissioner Mark W. Thomas and, up until recently, and in what Brochey claimed was a conflicted role, since he votes on town funding of Artpark & Company, Inc., Town Councilman Ronald Winkley.

Winkley resigned his position on the Artpark & Company board this year as a result of his dispute with Brochey.

The chairman of Artpark & Company, Inc., is John Camp of HSBC Bank who does not live in Lewiston.

While board members are unpaid, Artpark & Company's president, George Osborne, is paid $120,000 per year plus incentives for his summertime work.

While Artpark concerts used to be free, and sometimes drew crowds of over 20,000, an admission charge went into effect in 2012, and ticket sales were limited to audiences up to 12,000.

Artpark & Company charges from $5 to more than $40 for tickets, and sells food and beverages including beer, like other concert promoters.

In addition, Artpark & Company sold about 35 regional corporations, private businesses and individuals sponsorships for their concert series and sponsors were awarded private boxes where they can bring guests during for the concert season.

"We actually have companies that are dying to get in there. We don't have any more room for them," Osborne said. "They want to be here because we have big-name acts."

Artpark & Company also does fund raising, and recently brought in around $40,000, through 120 donors.

Board members are expected to help raise money and donate themselves. The company also mails former ticket buyers asking for donations.

According to the minutes of the March 20 meeting, Artpark & Company had $500,000 in cash on hand and no long term debt.

According to Osborne, Artpark generated $465,300 in tax revenue for Niagara County and $567,500 in state tax dollars last year which indicates $12.9 million in gross taxable sales last year based on 8 percent sales tax.

The Town of Lewiston is the only town that subsidizes Artpark & Company, and it does so through a portion of Modern Disposal tipping fees paid to the town.

According to the contract, about 10 percent of tipping fees are set aside to be used by the town for recreation.

Typically this recreation money ranges from $100,000 to $120,000 and, for the last 10 years this money has been paid solely to Artpark & Company, amounting to over a million dollars.

By contract, none of Modern's tipping fees have to go to Artpark & Company yet board after town board not only turned over all the designated recreation fee money to Artpark & Company, but provided free police services to work on concert nights - many on overtime.

Some of them ride horses, adding to the spectacle as well as the cost.

On April 14, Brochey, after seeing a report that the town was likely to be a half- million dollars in the red, following a dismal 2013, where the town was nearly $700,00 in the red, he announced Lewiston would withhold its Modern tipping fee payment, claiming that, after 10 years, Artpark & Company ought to be able to fund itself.

By discontinuing subsidies for Artpark & Company, the town could eliminate 30 percent of its $500,000 expected deficit this year.

The Republican members of the town board quickly rose to Artpark & Company's defense, saying that Artpark & Company would receive the entire portion of Modern's tipping fees, as long as Republicans controlled the board.

At the April 28 Town Board meeting, an explosion erupted between Artpark defender Winkley and Brochey, who was worried that the town, if it stayed in the red, would soon have to impose a town tax.

The Republicans voted to give the entire recreation portion of Modern tipping fees to Artpark & Company for 2104.

Winkley argued passionately on behalf of Artpark & Company, saying they were willing to pay (out of the tipping fees the town paid them) a fair amount for police. Winkley thought that figure should be around $29,000.

He said that it was not fair to bill Artpark & Company for the actual hourly cost of police since some officers would have been on duty anyway.

Brochey, and the town's finance officer, Paul Kloosterman, had another idea. They estimated the cost of police services - if fully loaded for all costs - mileage, insurance, overtime and full wages - for all police services lent to Artpark - would be $74,500 for the season.

During the meeting, a heated debate, lasting almost 40 minutes, developed between Brochey and Winkley over Artpark funding, Winkley arguing for the lower number, Brochey wanting Artpark & Company to pay the full cost of police services as calculated by the town's finance director, who is a CPA.

"I refuse to accept these costs," Winkley said.

Winkley went on to call the desire to get Artpark to fund itself "ridiculous."

He added, at one point, "We're not going to make a profit off Artpark, that's not what government is for."

Brochey criticized Winkley for his membership on the Artpark board. He demanded the council member recuse himself on any Artpark discussion and in voting.

"Just who are you working for here, Artpark or the town?" Brochey asked Winkley.

Winkley exploded. Noting his lengthy term as Lewiston police chief, Winkley said, "Don't ever question my heart in Lewiston again."

Ultimately, Winkley made a motion to charge Artpark $40,000 to cover his estimate of costs associated with police services and the cost of putting up signs and barricades. The board approved it with only Brochey voting against the motion.

As for the barricades and signs, for years, Artpark & Company paid a private company $1,100 per concert for the installation and removal of signs and barricades before and after the concerts on the state-owned Robert Moses Parkway.

During the Reiter administration, the town resolved to charge Artpark $200 per concert.

This year, Brochey told Artpark & Company that he wasn't prepared to deploy town employees to put up signs and barricades for the same $200 price Reiter did.

Contained in a series of emails leaked to the Reporter, on May 27, Artpark & Company's president, Osborne, wrote to Brochey asking him how much he would charge for the sign and barricade service.

Brochey wrote to Osborne that Lewiston Police Chief Chris Salada and he thought it would cost the town $750 per event -a total of $13,500 for the 18 concerts this year.

Before Osborne responded, the town board convened again, on May 29, and the Republicans voted to include the $13,5000 in the $40,000 to be paid by Artpark & Company for police and Parkway services.

Artpark Board Chairman Camp was grateful that Winkley took the side of Artpark, and wrote to board members in an email leaked to the Niagara Falls Reporter.

"My sincere thanks and deepest appreciation to Ron Winkley who argued strongly and passionately for Artpark's benefit. Ron resigned his position on the Artpark Board to avoid a potential conflict of interest in this matter. Also, thanks to all of you who lobbied on Artpark's behalf. Well done!"

With more than 250,000 customers per year, it is hard to understand why Artpark & Company Inc. needs to take money from the town.



Artpark & Company, Inc. stages concerts, musicals and various programs, including children's programs. Last year, Artpark attracted 267,050 visitors, with its various concerts and performances.

Their main income is derived from outdoor concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This year's lineup includes Hall & Oates, Ringo Starr, Ziggy Marley, MegaDeath, Boston, Willie Nelson, Morissey and others.

The Tuesday concerts are sponsored by First Niagara Bank. This year Artpark & Company, Inc. had more than $500,000 in cash on hand and zero debt to start the season. They doubled their budget for Wednesday concerts which are meant to attract a younger audience and booked acts that were popular in the '80s and into the '90s.

Their Wednesday night concert series, called Coors Light Wednesdays at Artpark, also promotes reduced calorie beer drinking. At a Sublime in Rome concert last year, there were more than 150 arrests, most of them for alcohol related offenses. Sublime in Rome returns this year, along with such acts as Widespread Panic and the Arctic Monkeys.






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