Brochey, Winkley engage in active discussion over police funding
by Terry Duffy
"I'm all for reasonability here; we're not going to nitpick every dime."
So commented John Camp, chair of the Artpark & Company board of directors, following conclusion of a prolonged discussion Monday among the Lewiston Town Board over Artpark funding. Included was a heated debate between Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey and Town Board member Ron Winkley. When it was all said and done, Artpark did get approved for an estimated $100,000 in town funding assistance. But the vote was not unanimous; Brochey, who is on record in opposition, voted a staunch "no." And Winkley, bowing to a conflict of interest criticism from Brochey over his past membership on the Artpark board, went on to recuse himself in what ended as a 3-1-1 approved Town Board funding vote.
And the Artpark funding police matter remained unresolved.
So summarized in a nutshell, what was a nearly 40-minute discussion between Brochey and the board over what to do on the Artpark funding dilemma.
How'd it get to this?
Well, for years, Modern Disposal tipping fees paid to Lewiston as part of the company's community host agreement with the town routinely went on to be budgeted to Artpark. It was meant to help fund family programming.
But increasingly it became a thorny issue, first by the Lewiston Police, who argued for years of non-payment by Artpark to help LPD cover crowd and traffic enforcement patrols related to the Tuesday and Wednesday concerts, then by the Village of Lewiston, also over LPD non-funding, plus the strain that assisting Artpark operations has put on village finances. Now the town is feeling additional financial strains.
It came to a head last month, following non-productive town-village-Artpark discussions on Feb. 6 that were meant to resolve the LPD patrol funding issue. Brochey created a firestorm April 14 when he announced Lewiston would completely withhold its Modern tipping fee funding, claiming Artpark operated at a profit of $1.3 million in 2013 while the town was struggling in debt.
Monday, Camp appeared before the board during public comments, stating he wished to "hopefully set the record straight."
He said Artpark indeed has been the recipient of "between $100,000 and $120,00 per year" in Modern tipping fees over the years from the town. "Those are specifically designated for family programming," said Camp, "which is a loss overall for Artpark."
Camp said Artpark uses "other revenues" to help it offset that loss, and that the Artpark & Company board remains "committed to family programing."
As to Brochey's claim of Artpark realizing an appreciable profit in 2013, Camp went on to challenge that statement.
"It's been quoted in the paper that Artpark made $1.3 million. That is not true. Our budget (goal) is to generally break even every year," said Camp, adding that Artpark treads a "fine line" when planning a budget and dealing with unforeseen expenses associated with outdoor concerts, theater and programming. "In no way shape or form have we ever made $1.3 million in a given financial year," said Camp, adding that Artpark in fact had a net $45,000 loss over the last year.
"Overall, Artpark does not have deep pockets," said Camp, adding that the $1.3 million figure raised by Brochey likely factored in the overall capital improvements Artpark has realized over past years.
Camp recalled the February discussions between the town, village and Artpark, where he offered to "pay all the true out-of pocket expenses" related to police and real costs for concerts - an offer that went on to be rejected outright by Brochey. "At that time it was given to me that there were some $55,000 in expenses; $30,000 of that was for police overtime, another $25,000 was roughly fuel costs (using police vehicles during concerts), which I find difficult to understand ...
"I reiterated my position: We would pay for all true out-of-pocket expenses. We just need to have some reasonability as to what those charges were.
"The Artpark board is committed to reimbursing them," said Camp. He closed by telling the board that Artpark truly seeks to resolve its differences with the town.
But differences over Artpark funding went on to become inflamed later on in the board session. Winkley, Brochey and Town Finance Director Paul Kloosterman engaged in heated debate when actual LPD cost figures were debated. Kloosterman presented a figure of $67,500 in LPD expenses, based on staffing figures from LPD, to cover Artpark concerts. He initially offered this figure as a projection, based on cost estimates for fuel, staff costs, employee benefits, etc. When the village assistance (roughly $10,000) was factored in, Kloosterman said that figure ballooned to nearly $80,000 anticipated for 2014, given all LPD activity for all Artpark concerts and events.
His estimate was met by staunch disagreement from Winkley, who said he also reviewed LPD staffing costs, factored in 40 percent in additional costs for fuel, staffing, FICA, benefits, retirements, etc., and came up with a total LPD cost figure to Artpark of $28,302.07.
"They asked for a true cost, let's give them a true cost," said Winkley, adding that if the town is applying this cost estimate to a nonprofit like Artpark, it should do so for other nonprofits in Lewiston (the Lewiston Council on the Arts, Lewiston Jazz Festival, Lewiston Kiwanis Festival, etc.) whose village events also go on to cost the town money for police, etc.
"If we give Artpark their money, they will pay us for the police and the village will get their percentage of the money," Winkley argued.
"Look, I went through the budget," he continued. "The chief's numbers (reviewed pay sheets etc.) are right on ... $28,302.07."
He went on to ask Brochey and Kloosterman why their added estimates ($55,000, $75,000 or the latest $80,000 in LPD costs, factoring in the village) weren't included in the first police bill. "I refuse to accept these costs," Winkley said. "If we do, then why not add them on to the cost of other (nonprofits)."
Winkley went on to call the whole Artpark funding debacle "ridiculous."
Brochey replied the town, like the village, has been and continues to struggle financially. Noted were lower than expected tipping fees from Modern, lower than expected sales taxes realized, overall lower revenues, higher expenses, the town's contending with a host of needs, its dealing with contracts, uncertain bond rates, etc. "We're probably $300,000-$400,000 shy of where we should be," said Brochey. "If we don't do something, then we're the bad guys, we'll have to do some form of town tax. It's one of the things I'm trying not to do."
As noted, discussions on this matter became testy between Winkley and Brochey. Brochey at one point openly criticized Winkley for his recent membership on the Artpark board and demanded the council member recuse himself on any Artpark discussion and in voting.
"Just who are you working for here, Artpark or the town?" asked Brochey of Winkley.
Following the continued back and forth between the two, plus suggestions and input from other board members, a consensus was ultimately reached where the Town Board agreed to release roughly $90,000 in Modern tipping fees to Artpark immediately and that police costs would continued to be discussed between the two.
It breaks down to Artpark receiving Modern tipping fees due to Lewiston from the 2013 third quarter, plus anticipated Modern tipping fee money due to the town for the 2013 fourth quarter. Combined, the funding adds up to be "in the neighborhood of $100,000" for Artpark's fiscal year 2014, according to Camp.
In turn "Artpark agrees to reimburse the town for the true out of pocket expenses for police associated with Artpark events in 2014," he said. "The exact methodology for charging is still to be agreed, but the approved motion by the board was for strictly incremental expenses rather than fully loaded expenses."
Commenting later on what went down between Winkley and Brochey, Camp continued, "There's a difference between fully loaded costs and true incremental costs. ... I think Mr. Winkley's numbers were more accurate."
As to the true cost and paying for LPD, Camp reiterated Artpark & Company's pledge to come through. "We have been asking for that so we can pay it. If it's $28,000 and that's substantiated with time sheets, everything, we're happy to pay that."
As to the police costs raised earlier by Brochey, Camp called those "extremely large, hard to justify."
"Look, I understand they're (the town) under some fiscal issues with their budget," said Camp. "I understand what he's trying to do."
"(For us) it's a matter of transparency. I think we should get the facts up on the table. What their real costs are. As I said, some of the costs being bandied about (Artpark's $1.3 million profit), that's simply not true.
"We're a not-for-profit; we budget to make even every year. If we're lucky, we'll make a little bit of money, not a lot. And that gets poured back to investments for Artpark itself," Camp said.