The Greenport Village Board just failed to pay for part of the Tall Ships festival

05/29/2015 6:00 AM |
Village Trustee Doug Roberts's 'no' vote doomed the contract payments for Tall Ships Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Village Trustee Doug Roberts’s ‘no’ vote was the turning point against the contract payments for Tall Ships Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

In a surprise split vote Thursday night, the Greenport Village Board failed to get enough votes to approve payments due for the upcoming Tall Ships festival.

Since the Village Board wasn’t able to approve the contractual payments, those vendors, as of now, will not be paid. How that will affect the four-day July festival remains to be seen, village administrator Paul Pallas said.

“There will be gnashing of teeth,” he said after the meeting.

The $21,500 in payments, which were due to cover some marketing expenses and the appearance fee for the festival’s headlining ship Hermione, were split off from other Tall Ship payments at the request of Trustee Doug Roberts, who has criticized the village’s handling of the festival since taking office earlier this year.

Mr. Roberts voted against the payments, while Mayor George Hubbard and Trustee Mary Bess Phillips voted in favor.

But trustees Jack Martilotta and Julia Robins chose to abstain from the vote, and the necessary three-vote majority wasn’t reached. Mr. Martilotta and Ms. Robins both said they abstained because they are the Village Board’s members of the Tall Ships steering committee.

The payments that were rejected included $4,000 in payments for Creative Advertising Concepts, the marketing firm hired for the festival, as well as $5,000 for commercials. A $12,500 “port fee” for the Hermione also failed.

Mr. Hubbard told a Suffolk Times reporter he also wasn’t sure what will happen next.

The other festival items up for discussion — portable toilets, tents and payments for bands — were all okayed.

Before the vote was held, Mr. Roberts railed against the Greenport Business Improvement District, which is helping to organize the Tall Ships event. He specifically took issue with a perceived snub by the BID, who were supposed to present an update on the event’s finances to the Village Board last month. 

The representatives never came.

“They showed you up and they showed us up,” Mr. Roberts said to Mr. Hubbard.

BID president Peter Clarke had told The Suffolk Times he didn’t know he was expected. Mr. Clarke couldn’t be reached for comment late Thursday night.

At the meeting, Mr. Roberts also criticized the BID for not being more transparent about the amount of fundraising it had completed. He demanded the BID raise the $100,000 it had promised to give the Village.

In the meantime, “the CAC sales commission, CAC’s fees, they can wait,” he said.

After the vote, Mr. Roberts said he hopes the decision forces the Greenport Business Improvement District to hand over the funding it has collected, reach out to more sponsors to get the money, or pay the fees themselves.

“It’s not like the work can’t go on,” Mr. Roberts said. “They can get the money from anyone else.”

Another event — the Dances in the Park — came under scrutiny at the board meeting.

Mr. Roberts — who is the board’s liaison to the Dances in the Parks committee — proposed several resolutions related to the annual event, including compensating the event’s volunteer coordinator $1,500 as a “consultant,” paying for $10,000 worth of band appearances, selling sponsorships on banners and spending $2,700 on sound engineers.

All that blew through the $11,000 budget set for the dances. Mr. Roberts said a donation would cover the difference, but some board members said the budget for the event already factored in that money.

“If only we were this careful about $275,000 for Tall Ships,” Mr. Roberts said. “We’re talking about 11-grand.”

“It’s the same concept both ways,” Mr. Hubbard replied. “You complain about the Tall Ships. We’re trying not to repeat the same mistakes that happened with that.”

The board ultimately voted to approve the bands and banner costs, but did not authorize the sound engineer contract to keep the dances from exceeding the budget. The board also put out a formal request for a paid events coordinator, in order to comply with state hiring rules.

Mr. Roberts will now need to find the money to bring the free event back under budget.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Dances in the Park as Mr. Roberts’ event. He is not the organizer, rather the board liaison to the Dances in the Park committee. The Suffolk Times regrets the error.

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