By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County seems to both welcome and fear the approach of the Phish concerts on Memorial Day weekend.
Across several County Legislature committee meetings on Thursday, officials discussed their plans for an influx of people that has been estimated to be from 15,000 to 50,000 per day.
Based on the amount of seats at host Bethel Woods (with tickets still available as of yesterday), the most agreed-upon number is around 20,000 per day, but echoes persist of a return of 1969’s half a million at Woodstock just down the hill from where Phish will rock the crowd May 27-29.
County emergency and law enforcement personnel are holding a drill on April 27 partly in preparation for the concerts, said Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty.
“We’re pretty confident we’re going to be able to handle the crowd that comes,” he affirmed to legislators.
Part of the plan includes rerouting non-concert-bound traffic away from Route 17B including visitors headed for the Delaware River corridor, who will be urged to use Interstate 84 from Middletown to Route 97 in Port Jervis.
Bethel Woods, Chaboty added, has also ensured that Phish’s usual band of non-ticket-buying followers fans and merchants who set up shop outside of concerts to sell memorabilia won’t find a spot in the parking lot unless they hold paid tickets.
He said county leaders have been working closely with Bethel Woods, which already has a visitors’ guide available on its website, www.bethelwoodscenter.org.
Chaboty discounted reports from elsewhere that Phish’s heralded arrival at prior concert venues was overshadowed by its even more welcomed departure.
“We’re told the crowd is generally peaceful,” he said. “They just like to come and hang out.”
And hopefully spend some money locally, said Sullivan County Visitors Association Vice President Herb Clark, who estimated county businesses could rake in more than $4 million over the weekend.
“It’s going to be a great shot in the arm for the county,” he anticipated.
In other business
During the Health and Family Services Committee meeting, Legislator Jodi Goodman followed up on colleague David Sager’s concerns that volunteer county committees rarely see fresh faces or get legislators’ input.
“I’d like to recommend we have an absolute process, and we stick to that process,” she told her fellow legislators, advocating for a uniform advertising and appointment process for all committees over which the Legislature has discretion.
While the process will be fleshed out in May, County Manager David Fanslau said he’ll put open committee seats on the county’s website, www.co.sullivan.ny.us.
The goal is to get more county residents to volunteer their time and expertise on committees that advise the Legislature on everything from emergency services to health issues to business loans.