Add the Lebanon Fire District to the growing list of vendors and providers who haven’t been paid for their services at the Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival, held over four days in August near Brownsville.
Chief Gordon Sletmoe said Thursday that the district invoiced Willamette Country Music Concerts $45,377 for providing 55 staff persons who worked a total of 741 hours and provided 24/7 coverage from Thursday until Monday of the event.
That included coverage by assisting crews from Corvallis and Jefferson fire departments, plus “a number of apparatus,” Sletmoe said.
“We have yet to get anything from them,” he said. “We have had shoestring communications and we have been told they are working on it. But, we understand there is only one employee working for Willamette Country Music Concerts and she is reporting to someone else.”
Sletmoe said the fire district “has always been paid in the past, but not always in a timely manner. We have consulted with our attorneys, because we realize we are not the only ones in this boat and we do not want to get lost in the shuffle.”
According to Sletmoe, the festival organizers originally told him they hadn’t received the district’s bill for services, but it was both emailed and delivered by the Postal Service.
The list of companies waiting on payments that have contacted the Linn County Sheriff’s Office has continued to grow in recent days, said Sheriff Jim Yon.
One vendor that sells cowboy hats reported being out more than $19,000 and two other vendors reported waiting on payments of about $10,000 in total from the Brownsville festival, and $5,000 from the Country Crossings Music Festival held in southern Oregon in July.
A man who works for a private security company that serves both events told the Democrat-Herald he hasn’t been paid an estimated $1,300 from the Brownsville festival and had to wait several weeks for payments for services at Country Crossings.
Yon said he was told by a festival spokesperson that an audit of the festival’s business operations was underway and a decision about the Brownsville and Central Point events' fates would be made after that review is completed.
Yon said that when he hand-delivered an invoice for $77,000 to the music festival’s office in Eugene last week, “there were no computers on desks,” although he said he did not know who took them.
“Look, we can take legal action, but we really want to see this resolved sooner than later,” Yon said.
Don Leber, vice president of marketing for Bi-Mart, which has been the main sponsor of both festivals for several years, said Bi-Mart management decided to end that relationship after the Brownsville festival, but before the vendor payment issue came to light.
“After this year’s festivals, we stepped back and looked at what what’s going on for us,” he said. “We have opened a lot of new stores and plan to open more in the coming year. We want to expand what we’re doing in different communities. We’re looking for new opportunities and different markets.”
Leber said there are currently 79 Bi-Mart stores and two Cascade Farm and Outdoor stores.
Leber said Bi-Mart does not own any of the festivals and was only a key sponsor.
He said the New York City-based IMG, an arm of William Morris Endeavors, manages the festivals.
“I’ve been contacted by some of the vendors and we are sharing that information with IMG,” Leber said. “We are making them aware.”
Leber said the festivals “created a lot of good memories for a lot of people and gave back so much to the local communities, from schools to nonprofits.”
“Reed Anderson is a great property owner and a great supporter of making good things happen in Brownsville,” Leber said. “He embraced it and really worked hard on it.” (The Brownsville festival has been held on Anderson's farm.)
IMG employee Maura McGreevy, a spokeswoman for the Willamette Country Music Concerts, told the Democrat-Herald Thursday that “the company is in the process of assessing the festivals and reviewing vendor inquiries. No decisions about 2019 have been made at this time.”
But, she said, the company announced after the Mountain Home (Idaho) Country Music Festival in July that the event would not be held in 2019.
McGreevy couldn't talk about vendor payment issues, but did confirm that Anne Hankins, the former president of Willamette Country Music Concerts, is no longer with the company.