ArtsQuest cuts Bethlehem services and Musikfest payment

View full sizeArtsQuest will use fewer municipal services and therefore pay less money to the city for Musikfest this year.

negotiated a new contract with

which reduces the number of employees in the city

and reduced the organization’s payment to the city by $ 50,000.

ArtsQuest will use a private ambulance service and ground crews and less of the city’s police, fire and electrical departments, President Jeff Parks said. The reduced fees reduced ArtsQuest’s payment to the city from $ 286,760 in 2011 to $ 235,000 for this year, Parks said.

The question of whether ArtsQuest was paying enough for municipal Musikfest services prompted ArtsQuest to rethink its operations, Parks said.

Keeping city ambulances on-site costs ArtsQuest $ 90 an hour, Parks said. The private ambulance service will cost the organization about a quarter of that amount, he said. City EMS director Gordon Smith could not be reached for comment on Monday evening.

Instead of paying city park workers overtime to clean up the festival grounds every morning, ArtsQuest will hire its own field crews for the 10-day festival, Parks said.

ArtsQuest will also use less of the city’s electrical and police departments, with the police reduced by 10 to 15 percent, Parks said. ArtsQuest also plans to cut down on the city’s fire departments by not having the firefighters oversee crowd control, which they aren’t specifically trained for anyway, Parks said.

The city administration has accepted the changes, Parks said. Mayor John Callahan did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

City council plans to consider the proposed changes at a finance committee meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Council Chairman Eric Evans said. Evans said he asked city department heads to attend the meeting so they could explain how they think the festival can be run with fewer city departments.

Evans said he spoke to Callahan on Monday, who said there would be a corresponding $ 50,000 reduction in expenses to make up for the loss in income. If so, Evans said, he would likely support the amended contract.

City Councilor David DiGiacinto said he wanted to make sure the amended contract was a mix between reduced charges and reduced services.

Holland has repeatedly argued that the city should charge ArtsQuest an additional 40% on top of its Musikfest fees to cover expenses related to the increase in payroll, such as social security taxes, workers’ compensation and retirees. Parks said this year’s Musikfest contract includes these costs.

, Parks said ArtsQuest needs to look for ways to cut its Musikfest spending across the board, and Holland’s questions helped him review operations.

ArtsQuest’s loss of $ 750,000 at Musikfest last year delayed much of the payment for its festival services to the city. In January,

ArtsQuest currently owes the city $ 59,000 for Musikfest 2011 expenses, but has submitted a plan to repay that amount by July 31, Bethlehem Comptroller Robert Pfenning said on Monday.

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