CVB festival funding debate set for tonight

February 12, 2013 11:45:31 AM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


The Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau's festival grants committee will meet with festival organizers tonight to discuss festival grant guidelines put in place August 2012. 


The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the CVB board room. 


The meeting stems from requests made by Lowndes County District 5 Supervisor and Juneteenth organizer Leroy Brooks, who has for months expressed his displeasure with the new guidelines. At a December CVB board meeting, Brooks turned down a $15,000 grant for the Juneteenth festival in protest over the restrictions on how the money could be spent under the new guidelines. In a letter sent to the committee chairman Mark Castleberry in January, Brooks said he had not heard back from Castleberry on an earlier request to meet with the CVB festival committee in an effort to reach compromises on those restrictions. 


Castleberry, who said he wasn't able to schedule a meeting because of the holidays and work, will listen to the requests from Brooks and other festival organizers at tonight's meeting. 


"My understanding is that we will listen to their requests," Castleberry said. What's going to come of it, I don't know." 


The meeting was requested by CVB board chairman Dewitt Hicks during the board's Jan. 28 meeting. 


CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said the meeting will be a forum that is not only open to festival organizers but the public as well. 


"We are going to ask the people that want to speak to sign in and they will be allowed to speak to the committee for no more than three minutes," Carpenter said. "This is an opportunity for the committee to listen to some concerns and take things under advisement. I don't expect them to take any action on anything. They can bring their suggestions back to the board at a later date." 


Some board members have voiced a growing concern over the policy of allowing elected officials to ask for festival grants, a practice unique among state CVBs. The board was set to vote on eliminating elected officials from the festival grants at the board's last meeting when board member Harvey Myrick called for the motion to be tabled. 


In his letter Brooks also calls for elected officials to no longer ask for festival grants, provided the board agrees to certain changes in its guidelines, including allowing festival organizers to spend up to $15,000 for entertainment. The guidelines state only 25 percent of grant money can be used for entertainment. There is no such stipulation for "quality of life'' events, which provide funding up to $8,000. 


Castleberry told The Dispatch the committee isn't expected to agree to the changes Brooks has advocated.  


Columbus Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, organizer of the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival, said he doesn't expect significant changes to the guidelines, either. 


"I will probably attend just to view the meeting," Karriem said. "I'm not expecting for anything to happen. We've been asking for this meeting for several months. It is what it is. We just have to proceed on."