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Rising Summerfest Security Costs Force Milwaukee Officials To Reevaluate Contract

Public Safety Costs Skyrocketing Due To Growing Concern Over Possible Attacks

Morry Gash/AP Photo

The city of Milwaukee has a 20-plus year contract with Summerfest organizers to provide festival security. But public safety costs for the festival are rising due to growing concern over possible attacks. Now, the city wants to renegotiate their security contract that states the fixed rates organizers have to pay.

According to the Milwaukee Police Department, they’ve spent over $800,000 each of the past four years to provide security for Summerfest. Multiple units are need to secure the festival grounds and surrounding area. Department officials said they often have to pull forces from other areas to make sure the festival is covered.

This year, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., Summerfest’s organizer, is set to pay the negotiated price of $134,000 for security — leaving the rest to be paid by city taxpayers.

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Craig Mastantuono is a commissioner for the Board of Harbor Commission, which oversees Port Milwaukee — the landlord of the Summerfest Grounds, officially named the Henry Maier Festival Grounds. Mastantuono, along with others on the Board of Harbor Commission, were updated on the status of the issue during a presentation on Thursday by the Milwaukee Police Department.

“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t look at that annually and compare whether what was anticipated in 2009 matches the actual cost for the city,” Mastantuono said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he hopes Summerfest will be willing to make accommodations.

“The agreement with Summerfest which dates back to 2009 is woefully inadequate to cover the security cost that are incurred on behalf of the visitors to Summerfest by the residents of the city of Milwaukee.”

Barrett would like to resolve the issue by next year’s festivities. The current security contract is binding until 2030.