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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Council Should Examine All Events Prior To Approval

Editorial: Council Should Examine All Events Prior To Approval

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis has a grand idea to hold a Dragon Boat Regatta in the Yacht Basin in October to help generate tourism revenues for local businesses in the less-busy shoulder season. Teams pay to participate and row the boats in a race and enjoy other event activities. ( See report on 1-A)
That idea was previously, all be it briefly, pitched to the rest of the Council but without detail on organization, funding, insurance, responsible parties, etc.
A special meeting was set for Monday August 5th and in the notice it read, "Consider a request to amend the budget utilizing up to $20,000 in TDA funds and up to $10,000 from the legislative contingency fund (10-410-090) to cover initial cost associated with the Dragon Regatta."
Tourism Development Authority (TDA) funds are generated by a room tax on hotels and motels. A portion of those funds is dedicated to funding tourism-oriented events that put "more heads on beds."
This event may very well meet that description and generate sales revenues for local businesses by bringing increased traffic to the island for a weekend. Yet that's not the issue.
There has been a lot of debate about what events are appropriate for TDA funding reimbursement. Also, debate on the cost of the event in relation to an evident absence of details available to the public.
Mayor Lewis explained, "We will not be requesting $30,000 for this event. This is part of Room Occupancy Tax which funds activities focused on attracting visitors and tourist to our community. The event should generate over $30,000 in revenues and it is a self-funded event. The actual out of pocket costs before we generate net proceeds are less than $15,000 and we should have that amount covered before we have to pay for the costs. This is a town-sponsored event and is part of the mission for the use of Tourism Funds. We will bring outside tourist who will rent rooms and spend money in our business community in the shoulder season."
And here's the problem, the agenda indicated a request for $30,000 and then Lewis said the event would generate over $30,000 and be a self funded event but the actual "out of pocket" costs before net proceeds will be less than $15,000 and, "We should have that amount covered before we have to pay for the costs."
Also, the Interim Manager indicated the original funding request to Council, not the Mayor.
Lewis explained on Monday, "I initally asked to cover the total amount of the production company which was around $14,000. In the past town managers have put out a larger number than requested to act as a contingency fund. I am not blaming Ed he just came up with the figure. I am going to ask to have it changed at the meeting."
Then at the Monday meeting Lewis withdrew the request saying someone agreed to "underwrite" the cost of orgnizing the event. Again, no detailed discussion among Council.
Keeps getting confusing. TDA funding is easy to understand, but the details and timeline for funding of this event have largely been done in committee and not brought before the Town Council and the public for consideration.
The Town has in the past made other organizations jump through hoops and stand in front of the Council for approval of such events. There's an application process, staff time to review plans and addressing issues raised by Council members.
To date I've not seen that occur at a Council meeting but I have read a press release written by a Town employee, looked at a Power Point Presentation outlining costs to the Town and the event plans. All items that I obtained at Town Hall.
The bottom line is, communication and public information is important.
Perhaps the Council will discuss this event in more detail at a future meeting including a full presentation on the details and funding mechanisms. Parking logistics, notifying property owners at viewing areas along the Yatch Basin.
The Mayor is passionate about this event because he initiated the idea and has taken the lead on it. That's excellent, but at this point more talk on the details is in order.
If not, then the public becomes suspect and starts speculating about who's paying for it, how much of their tax dollars will be involved and numerous other issues.
Many people took issue with the meeting being scheduled Monday at 10AM. That was later changed to 7PM in reponse to public outcry about not being to attend a daytime meeting when people are at work.
Lewis explained on Facebook on Monday, "By the way the town manager recommended the time so staff can be present."
At the meeting that night Lewis said there were a lot of questions about the 10AM meeting time. He said, "The State of North Carolina actually has a default time... any time you call a special meeting the default time is 10AM. And we just said we'd like to have a special meeting and I think we came back and said can we just do it at 10AM in the morning and we said ok."
And the Monday special meeting wasn't originally called to discuss the regatta. It was called because the Council was caught voting via email on a budget amendment to fund Lifeguards traveling to California to participate in a National Competition. The Council can't vote by email and had to schedule a public meeting to approve of that funding two days before they were scheduled to leave.
If not for that issue popping up, there would have been no agenda item for Monday's meeting regarding the regatta.
The August 13, meeting agenda does not list discussion about the regatta.
Maybe Council will get around to that topic in September?