April 21, 2010 10:24:00 AM
In trying to pawn off their bridge on the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city and county burned one.
We know the background well by now: The city applied for a state Department of Transportation grant to restore the old Highway 82 bridge, which spans the Tombigbee River at the entrance to the Riverwalk, into a pedestrian walkway several years ago. At that time, the city and county agreed to each cover 10 percent of the match -- estimated to be $200,000 each on what''s projected to be a $2 million project.
The state finally found money for the project last month. The city, during a gathering below the bridge thanking MDOT for the grant, reminded the county it had committed 10 percent to the project.
Then, amnesia set in among county leaders. The county, some of whose leaders pride themselves on being financially sound while the city is struggling during the recession, suddenly was also broke. The city took a knock for not reminding the county of their commitment sooner; supervisors'' president Harry Sanders said he felt "blind-sided."
So, the city and county went looking for someone to sell a bridge to, and settled on the CVB.
Trouble is, the city and county, who were squabbling about a lack of communication surrounding the project, then "blind-sided" the CVB.
The first time CVB executive director/CEO James Tsismanakis heard about the city and county''s scheme to pawn the bridge off on him was just before a City Council meeting, in which the council voted in favor of a resolution asking the CVB to fund both the city and county''s share of the bridge project. The county passed the same resolution days later.
At that county meeting, Sanders passed himself off as an expert on how flush the CVB is with cash. They bring in $1.5 million a year, he said. On top of that, they have all kinds of grant money. What are they doing with all that money? Surely they can pay for our bridge.
This further irked CVB board members, who were still mostly oblivious of what the city and county were planning.
Sanders'' claims aside, the CVB seems to be doing OK. The board is operating on a $1.35 million budget for 2010. Of that, $295,000 goes to payroll, their biggest line item. Another $200,000 goes to marketing and advertising of Columbus and Lowndes County -- which we''d expect of them, if not more. Another $100,000 is handed out as grants for tourism projects throughout the city and county -- helping to fund various festivals and other events.
However, the CVB also is paying $192,726 in 2010 to the Columbus Lowndes Development Link. We find this a questionable use of tourism dollars, especially since the CVB does its own promotions.
The CVB also has $120,000 in its budget dedicated to "special projects."
The bottom line is, the CVB can afford to do what it did Tuesday: Agree to fund a third of the bridge project, to the tune of $133,333. We believe that was more than a fair decision -- this project was primarily a city one, that the county agreed to help fund. The CVB was never a part of the equation, until now.
We can only wait and see if that''s enough to satisfy the city and county, and if the project will move forward.
business owner commented at 4/21/2010 5:07:00 PM:
A waste of money . Our State should use this money for much more needed things. Help the jobless , homeless and less fortunate. build a playground or spraypark , the bridge should be put on hold for a while. The Island would make a great place a theme park, water park or zoo . Just my thoughts
amy commented at 4/22/2010 1:35:00 PM:
Thanks Jeff - The news paper would like nothing better than a burned bridge between the 3 units. They work hard to drive a wedge between all 3. You would think there would be better things to put on the front page than the Mayor and Concilman mug shots, People who have been shot or any thing they can find to run the City and County down. We have a lot of good things going on in this city but you have to pay for an ad to get it in the paper. I don't think this will change as long as you have the ownership and out of state writers(who do not know Columbus) bashing our city.
Another business owner commented at 4/22/2010 2:45:00 PM:
A burned bridge does seem to be a bit much. I'm sure the CVB will continue to be on good terms with the city and county. That said, I'm generally impressed with the positive news in our local daily paper. I think we get in the habit of saying the news only talks about negative issues, but I kept a tally for a couple of weeks and there were actually more positive than negative stories. (I know... I have too much time on my hands.)
BILL commented at 4/22/2010 5:28:00 PM:
WHY DOES THE DISGRACE HAVE TO KEEP BEATING A DEAD HORSE? FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE TO WRITE ABOUT IT NOT THE SAME OLD THING. ALL THE CITY AND COUNTY DID WAS ASK(THRU CHANNELS) FOR SOME HELP ON THE BRIDGE. WHEN THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS SAID OK ON THIS WAS 3 YEARS AGO. DUH ! THINGS HAVE CHANGED. THE MONEY WAS NOT IN THE CITY OR COUNTY BUDGET. WHY MAKE A BIG DEAL OF THIS? I HOPE THIS IS THE LAST WE HAVE TO READ ABOUT IT!
bobby commented at 4/22/2010 8:53:00 PM:
Amen brother Bill. Well stated!
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