Nassau may hire private consultants to handle concerts

Chakar, the spinning wheel, which is part of Chakar, the spinning wheel, which is part of the Sikh Martial Art, Gatka, is performed at The Punjabi Heritage Festival at the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on July 21, 2013. Photo Credit: Barbara Alper

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Nassau County plans to hire private consultants to manage its entertainment programming at county parks, including providing "comfort" accommodations for headline acts and advertising shows.

The two consultants would perform functions previously handled by three Parks Department employees who have left the county workforce.

Acting county parks Commissioner Brian Nugent called the services, which were outlined in requests for proposals issued by the county last month, "essential for the coordination of events, which ranges from coordinating talent, assisting with the production and providing the sound expertise needed for shows."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) questioned the need, noting a report earlier this month by county Comptroller George Maragos that highlighted the rising cost of police overtime and Nassau's struggle to pay property tax refunds.

"Just days after the county comptroller issued a report reminding us that the county executive needs to stop racking up bills that he cannot pay, here we go again paying for something that our hardworking county employees have been doing for years -- putting on concerts at Eisenhower Park," Abrahams said.

Nassau officials declined to estimate a cost for the contracts, citing the competitive bidding process.

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The contracts would be funded by a portion of Nassau's hotel/motel tax.

Nassau hosts dozens of free shows annually, including rock acts, operas and fireworks, predominantly at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

Nugent said the contracts would "save money" because the county would obtain cheaper advertising rates, with the consultants making bulk purchases of space, and saving the cost of salary and benefits of parks employees to do the job.

The functions outlined in the RFP were performed by a full-time Parks Department employee who has retired and two part-time workers whose positions were not renewed, Nugent said.

Suffolk County, with less extensive entertainment programming than Nassau, uses parks department employees to manage its shows, said county spokesman Justin Meyers. He could not isolate the costs of the work, as the employees perform other functions.

Under the Nassau contracts, a technical director, stage manager, production manager and media broker would be hired for 2014 concerts and shows.

The winning bidder would coordinate the arrival and departure of talent; provide meals for performers and any other "comfort" accommodations requested by the performer and oversee lighting, sound and staging during sound checks and performances.

The consultant should have "thorough knowledge of all aspects of municipal theater production for the wide variety of shows, from symphonic to contemporary rock," the RFP said.

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Nugent said the acts that have agreed to perform at Eisenhower Park this summer include Eddie Money; Taylor Dayne; Jay Black, formerly of the band Jay and the Americans; and Big Shot, a Billy Joel cover band.

Both contracts would last one year with the option for a second. Proposals are due April 15 and Nassau expects to pick winner bidders around April 22.

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