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May 22, 2012 10:14:26 AM
In what seems to be a regular occurrence, festival funding was once again a source of contention between members of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. At Monday's board meeting, Bernard Buckhalter and various board members disagreed on the level of funding for several festivals including Artesia Days, Crawford Festival and the Southside Townsend Park Blues Festival. In an all or nothing move, Buckhalter voted against funding every festival grant request presented to the board by CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter.
Carpenter recommended the board reward Artesia Days a festival grant of $8,000 or 56 percent of its advertising and marketing budget. The festival had requested $10,000.
"When we looked at the grants, it's the same as last year, which was $8,000," Carpenter said.
After board treasurer Bart Wise disclosed sales tax revenues were up, Buckhalter became adamant the revenue increase should be used for festival funding.
"Everybody talks about how good the Artesia festival is," Buckhalter said. "I think we should give them the $10,000."
Carpenter agreed the festival is "wonderful," but stated her proposed funding amount was double what was issued the festival two years ago.
"Does the grant committee not have a role in advising the director how the grants should be issued," asked board member Whirllie Byrd.
Carpenter next suggested the board fund the Crawford Festival at $4,500. The suggestion, which was approved by the board 6-1, sparked more debate between Buckhalter, Byrd and other board members.
"I would like to see them get $5,500," Byrd said. "Crawford could use the help."
"$10,000 would help them -- $100,000 would help them," board member Mark Castleberry said.
"You don't have to be sarcastic," Byrd replied. "I'm asking Bart (Wise) and the director to help with this."
Buckhalter motioned to fund the festival at $5,500 which was supported by Byrd. The motion died with a 2-5 vote. Byrd ultimately voted with the board to fund the festival at $4,500.
The Southside Townsend Park Blues Festival requested $22,000 in grant money for 2012 with a "must fund" request of $18,000. Carpenter's request for $12,000 was highly contested by Buckhalter.
"Why are we not trying to increase the funding for these festivals," Buckhalter asked. "We gave them $12,000 last year and they have more expenses this year. We have more money this year."
"You say we have more money," Castleberry said. "But we don't have more money in the budget. We should respect the budget. Maybe we could look at more funding in next year's budget?"
Buckhalter said the board is not doing what it was told to do by the state's legislature.
"(Festival funding) is what the money is for," said Buckhalter. "That's what the legislature said. "
"The legislature told us to be good stewards of the money," Wise said.
"Well, the legislature said we didn't have to fund the (Columbus-Lowndes Development Link) 15 percent but we did it without hesitation. We gave them $200,000," Buckhalter said. "Why do you always complain about festival funding?"
A frustrated Castleberry said the board acted as the governing entity on the budget approval.
"We have no power as individuals," Castleberry said. "The board takes action, not us. The board accepted this budget, and it is the only way the board speaks. We need to let the board function as it needs to function."
The board also allotted $15,000 for the Tennessee Williams Festival with a 5-2 vote. Buckhalter and Wise voted against the funding proposal.
Buckhalter's term on the board expires July 3.
Legends Concert committee member Roger Short approached the board and made a request of $22,000 from the special projects fund for the October concert at the Riverwalk.
"Last year, we did not accomplish what we wanted to, so we've scaled-back this year," Short said. "We are going to have smaller acts such as The Gents, Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars and Parrots of the Caribbean, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band."
Carpenter noted the special projects budget currently has a little more than $54 in it.
Because Legends is a one-day event, it is not eligible for a grant request unless the CVB decides to make an exception, Board President George Swales said Tuesday morning. Short's request has been tabled and will be decided upon at the CVB's next meeting.
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