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Herbst Splits the Double Header - Wins the Big One

Trumbull First Selectman Herbst seeks and receives $60,000 - enough to proceed with annual concert planning.

First Selectman Tim Herbst called a special joint meeting of Trumbull’s Board of Finance and Town Council yesterday evening at which he sought and received a bridge loan of $60,000 that will be added to $57,000 on hand.  This will enable his office to stage a late September name act band concert at Indian Ledge Park.

He began by saying “a lot of people want to keep the concerts going and to keep Trumbull Day.”  He added that “we need to decide if the town should subsidize the costs, and if the costs are appropriate.”

He noted some risks: “will ticket sales exceed the breakeven point, will the weather cooperate?”  He said the budget is as lean as possible, and his office - mainly, it appears, his assistant Amy DeVenzo - has created a cash flow document showing that the event achieves break even at 5,573 tickets.

Without getting into the weeds on the numbers, selling out will yield revenues of $246,250, against expenses of $159,580, plus a $60,000 fee for the band, and net the town $26,670.  However, if all 6,250 tickets are sold, the headline act receives an additional $15,000, cutting the town’s take to $11,670.  Suffering from prosperity. The town will also receive a small revenue stream from food and drink vendors and merchandise sales.

To put these figures in perspective, 6,500 tickets were sold for the Train concert in 2010.  Herbst called this “the gold standard.”  They had a number one hit at the time, they have been popular, I’m told, for the better part of 15 years and are “a family act” (Don’t ask me.  I’m a 68 year old caught in a time warp.  My music is the Rolling Stones, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Eagles.).

The tin standard would have to be last year’s concert.  Only 3,000 tickets had been sold when Hurricane Irene pulled the plug on that one.  

The point is that a forecast is just that.  Herbst called the band choice “demographics driven,”  the act must appeal to Trumbull’s core - 40 to 60 year olds.  Another observer suggested later an act that appeals to teen age girls who will bring their parents should be a hit.

Once questioning began, the theme became what the benefit is to the town.  On one side, representatives Jane Deyoe and Ann Marie Evangelista called concerts “family events” and said “they benefit the town,” though Ms. Deyoe seemed not whole heartedly for the expenditure.

Newly minted Democrat Andy Palo took the other side, questioning whether using General Fund dollars as a bridge loan is appropriate.  He recommended holding off till next year and putting the funding into the budget.

Board alternate Cindy Penkoff recommended renting the venue to a promoter and simply taking a risk free flat fee.  Council majority leader (and “severe conservative”) Chadwick Ciocci agreed, saying government “should not be in the entertainment business, but should be in the recreation business,” and so should adopt Ms. Penkoff’s model.

Democratic council member Fred Palmieri drew a round of good humored applause from his peers for agreeing with Mr. Ciocci - “our citizens support concerts, but taking such a financial risk is not for government.”

Council member Martha Mark called for “better planning.”  “Why did it take so long?”  “It feels like we’re doing this at the last minute... I don’t like fronting $60,000.”

Herbst’s discussion of the date - the third week of September - got mixed approval.  Last year’s experience suggested that late September posed a smaller risk of hurricane.  The offset, it was noted, is that college students have returned to school and that there are conflicting school related activities here.

The Votes

Finally votes were cast.  The first game went to the finance board, which voted unanimously against appropriating $60,000 as seed money (or a bridge loan, depending on your view).  But Herbst won the one he needed - the town council voted 12 for the appropriation, two opposed and one abstention.  

The concert is on!

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TrumbullProgressive July 21, 2012 at 12:17 AM
If memory serves me, Tim Herbst roundly criticized Ray Baldwin's administration for "lending" the concert event something like $30,000. Now he asked for and got from his rubber stamp Town Council majority almost double that amount. The word hypocrisy comes to mind. It is stunning that we are allocating this much money this late in the summer for an unknown band. Last year was a bust and Mr. Herbst is lucky we had a storm to blame the cancellation on (3000 tickets sold last year is a very generous figure from what I've heard). Why has the administration not been working since last summer to nail down an act, get a date earlier in the summer when families are together with their college students and there are fewer competing activities in town, and when more time would be available to sell tickets and publicize the event. It is stunning how this administration has bungled both Trumbull Day and the Summer Concert. Both events were staples of summer in Trumbull. They brought the community together and also drew outsiders to our town. The fireworks used to be some of the best on the east coast owing to the high school venue allowing such a close observation point. The total lack of communications this year on plans (or lack there of) for Trumbull Day Lite and fireworks is just amazing. Where is our town leadership when it comes to building community spirit. All they seem to know how to do is cut and cut and cut and our community is the poorer for it.
louis July 21, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Hey Roy, How long have you been in town and whereabouts? Where did you move from, I'm tryin to place you. We've been living here or comin' here since we had friends on the farm in 1921. I'm tryin to figure your thinking, you seem like a nice fella.
louis July 21, 2012 at 04:04 PM
city mouse or country?
Roy Fuchs July 22, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Louis - I am a nice fella. We've been her almost six years, after almost 30 yrs in Westport, so I'm still learning the ropes. I try to minimize my opinions, but I will take a position when I believe it gets me closer to the heart of the story.
louis July 22, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Well if its westport then you certainly are a nice fella. One of my favorite places, was mostly farm land back when I was a little youngin. I like the stuff. We have a lot of work to do...!
MAC July 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM
What do you mean by "We" and "have a lot of work to do...!"? Could it be that you mean "working" to help N. DiNardo subvert the conservative/Republican bent of Trumbull, by pretending to be some sort of "independent"?
TrumbullProgressive July 23, 2012 at 04:11 PM
MAC, I wouldn't waste much time trying to understand what LB means on anything. I don't think he is doing anything to help N. DiNardo - in case you haven't noticed, LB is now a Republican. I'm waiting for Jack Testani to welcome him into the fold as publicly as he showed Messrs Kelly and Palo the door.

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