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.
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!