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City votes to reduce size of tourism board


Jason Browne



The Columbus City Council voted Tuesday to reduce the number of members on the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors to six members and leave it there. 


In compliance with state code, the council voted to contract the CVB board from eight members to six, as well as abandon industry-specific appointments in favor of strictly at-large appointments. 


An amendment to the motion to contract the board also specified all six members of the CVB board must vote on each issue, effectively barring abstentions. 


Members of the city, county and CVB board met last week to discuss bringing the board into compliance with state code as well as drafting an interlocal agreement between Columbus and Lowndes County to govern the CVB. No such ordinance was passed by the city and the county when the CVB was created in 1986. 


Discussion during the joint committee meeting centered around reducing the board to six members while petitioning the state Legislature to either change the state code governing convention bureau boards or providing a local and private bill allowing the city and county to set their own rules regarding the board. State code specifies CVB boards will consist of three members appointed by each governing entity. 


City Attorney Jeff Turnage, who represented the city along with Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor at the joint committee meeting, presented the option of petitioning the state Legislature to the council, but Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box''s motion to seek a local and private bill died due to lack of a second. 


Box also cast the lone opposing vote against the motion to make all board appointments at-large. 


The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors will receive a report from the joint committee meeting at its Dec. 30 meeting and vote on how to proceed, but without the city''s support, according to Turnage, the CVB board is likely fixed at six members. 


"The county can go ask for a local and private bill, but without the city being on board it''s not likely. The Legislature won''t go along with it, I wouldn''t think," said Turnage. 


He said further negotiations between the city and county concerning the CVB are likely. 


The city council also passed a motion granting autonomy to the CVB board in naming a replacement for current CVB Director James Tsismanakis, who is leaving Feb. 1 to take another job. In the 1986 city ordinance governing the CVB the city and county are granted final authority on personnel decisions. 


In other matters, following the meeting in executive session the council voted to uphold a two-day suspension of City Planner Patricia Southerland. 


Sources said Southerland was suspended two days without pay by Mayor Robert Smith following an outburst last week at the Building Department. Southerland appealed her suspension to the council Tuesday after completing the suspension.




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