Greenport Village tries again on Tall Ships funding, votes yes

Notes taken at a Greenport Village Board meeting Wednesday afternoon detail the money brought in by the village for the Tall Ships festival. (Credits: Paul Squire)
Notes taken at a Greenport Village Board meeting Wednesday afternoon detail the money brought in by the village for the Tall Ships festival. (Credits: Paul Squire)

A second attempt to make payments for the Greenport Tall Ships event Wednesday afternoon went smoother this time around than last week — though not exactly smoothly.

The Greenport Village Board approved $21,500 in contractual payments for the festival in a 4-1 vote at Wednesday’s special meeting. The public meeting was called days after a split vote last Thursday left the money unpaid.

“We’re a month away and I think we’re close on the fundraising goals,” said mayor George Hubbard. “I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

He also promised to make the financial details of the event fully available after the festival. After the last Tall Ships event three years ago, sponsorship deals were heavily redacted from the publicly released financial report.

The payment delay stemmed from the meeting last week, where Trustee Doug Roberts had split a larger resolution to fund parts of the festival into smaller motions.

One of those resolutions — the $21,500 set aside for marketing fees, commission payments and a port fee for the tall ship Hermione — then failed after Mr. Roberts voted no and two board members, Deputy Mayor Jack Martilotta and Trustee Julia Robins, abstained from the vote.

Both Mr. Martilotta and Ms. Robins voted in favor of the payments this time around.

Mr. Martilotta said he had abstained from the vote last week because he had concerns about later conflicts of interest. Mr. Martilotta is a co-chair of the committee and said potential sponsors for the event may later work with the village again.

Mr. Hubbard noted during the meeting neither Mr. Martilotta or Ms. Robins were legally bound to recuse themselves from the vote as members of the committee.

Mr. Martilotta, who has been in office for less than three months, also stated he needed to fully understand the finances of the event before voting in favor of more funding.

His concerns were put to rest by the information revealed at Wednesday’s meeting, he said.

“You have to vote as how you read it,” he said. “I wasn’t put on the committee to vote yes. I was put on the committee to let the Mayor know what’s going on, which is something I’ve been trying to do.”

Ms. Robins said she had abstained last week because of Mr. Robert’s move to split the resolution in two, which didn’t give her time to review each resolution separately.

“What bothered me about voting at that time was that … it was a last minute thing,” she said, noting that the information was being generated on the fly last week. “I never intended not to fund that. I totally believe in funding this event.”

Having gone over the numbers, Ms. Robins said she was more comfortable voting yes this time around.

But last week’s no vote did have consequences, Mr. Hubbard said. A sponsor of the event decided to pull out after the split vote and confusion last week. The identity of the sponsor wasn’t discussed at the meeting.

Before the vote, Wednesday’s meeting featured a statement from the Greenport BID, read by president Peter Clarke, which rejected concerns that the Village may lose money if the BID can’t raise the money.

“There’s no question and no doubt that we volunteers of the business community will continue to make every effort to meet this commitment,” Mr. Clarke said.

Mr. Clarke also fought back against criticism that the finances of the event were being kept secret and were not available for the public.

“There’s no smoke and mirrors. There’s no mystery. There’s no question. There’s frankly no issue,” he said.

The four-day event will cost the village $275,000 and is being run by the Tall Ships committee, a group of Greenport business owners, police representatives, elected officials and village employees.

The Greenport Business Improvement District has promised to raise $100,000 in sponsorship deals for the event, with the village pocketing the entirety of the ticket sales.

Village officials revealed the BID has confirmed commitments for $88,000 of the $100,000 they promised the village. Of those funds, $35,000 have already been paid to the village.

Sponsors are expected to pay the remainder of the $88,000 in the next week or two, with discussions ongoing to get more sponsors.

Mr. Roberts still voted against the resolution to pay for the event Wednesday, saying he had to stick to his principles.

“If it rains for three days, we’re going to lose money,” he said.

However, Mr. Roberts thanked Mr. Clarke for presenting the financial information about the festival. He then said the no vote last week was effective in forcing the BID to collect on its commitments and provide that money.

“Look what’s happened in the last five days,” he said at the meeting, urging the board members to stick with their previous votes and reject the payments. “Look at all the activity. The money’s coming in … If we schedule another one of these next week, what might happen in the next five days?”

That upset Mr. Clarke, who had spent much of the meeting defending the event from critics in the audience. As Mr. Roberts spoke, Mr. Clarke turned his back and left the room, muttering, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”

The Tall Ships event will go on, as scheduled, over Fourth of July weekend.

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