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CVB awards grants, debates funding levels

Legends asks for $22,000, but only $54 is left in special projects fund

The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded grant funding at their May 21 meeting. While much less confrontational than usual, the meeting still saw some disagreements among board members as the board debated both funding levels and how much funding was too much. The board also heard a request from the Legends Concert, which asked for $22,000 in special programs funding.

Grant requests
Last month the CVB heard requests from several local festivals: Artesia Days, the Crawford Cotton Boll Festival, the Southside Festival and the Tennessee Williams Festival. The board does not decide on grant awards until the month after the request. Although the board approved all of Carpenter’s recommendations, Board Member Bernard Buckhalter voted against every request.

Artesia Day requested $10,000. CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter recommended $8,000.
“When we looked at the grants earlier, we looked at capping at $15,000,” Carpenter said. “They received $8,000 last year, and that’s my recommendation.”
Rissa Lawrence made a motion to give $8,000 and was seconded by Whirllie Byrd.
Bernard Buckhalter disagreed.
“I don’t see a problem with giving them $10,000,” he said. “They have a wonderful festival. The director even bragged on how good they are at the last meeting. I don’t think $10,000 is too much to ask for.”
“I do think it’s a wonderful festival,” Carpenter said. “In 2009 they received $4,000. In 2010 they received $4,000, and in 2011 they received $8,000.”
The motion to give Artesia Day $8,000 passed 6-1, with Buckhalter casting the no vote. [Board members Dewitt Hicks and Nadia Dale were not present. – Brian Jones]

The Crawford Cotton Boll Festival requested $8,000. Carpenter recommended $4,500.
“The last two years they’ve received $4,000,” she said. “I recommend $4,500 this year.”
Mark Castleberry made the motion to fund at $4,500, and was seconded by Harvey Myrick.
Buckhalter again dissented.
“Artesia and Crawford are pretty much the same,” he said. “They’re about the same size. Giving them the same amount would be nice.”
“I think we should consider it,” Byrd said. “Could the director see a way to give them $5,500? They really need the help.”
“If we go up, what is that going to do for the funding for the remaining festivals?” asked board Treasurer Bart Wise.
“I’m sure, Mr. Treasurer, you’ll be able to move money around to find more,” Byrd said. “In light of the extra money coming in…we didn’t expect this amount to come in. We should be in pretty good financial shape.”
“You could argue that $10,000 would help them, or $100,000 would help them,” Castleberry said.
“Don’t be sarcastic, I mean seriously,” Byrd snapped.
“I apologize, I was just trying to make a point,” Castleberry said, but Byrd talked over him.
“I’m just asking if we could find another thousand,” Byrd said.
“If our budgeting numbers had come in less, would we go back and cut all these festivals’ budgets because the numbers were less than expected?” Wise asked.
“I don’t like to use the word cut,” Byrd said.
“If we’d budgeted $110,000 and we only had $100,000 come in, would we go back and cut grants?” Wise asked again.
“We’re not doing that,” Byrd said.
“When we did the budgeting earlier this year, we had them at $4,000,” Carpenter interjected. “I think it’s a good festival, that’s why I changed it to $4,500.”
Buckhalter offered a substitute motion to fund at $5,500 and was seconded by Byrd. His motion failed 5-2.
The board then voted on the original funding level of $4,500, which passed 6-1, with only Buckhalter voting no.

The Southside Blues Festival requested $22,000, or a minimum funding level of $18,000. Carpenter recommended $12,000.
Wise made a motion to for $12,000 and was seconded by Lawrence. Predictably, Buckhalter disagreed.
“Why are we not trying to increase the funding?” Buckhalter said. “We’ve got the money. We gave them $12,000 last year. Things are more expensive this year, so why are we giving them the same amount of money?”
“You said we got more money, but there is no more money in the budget,” Castleberry said. “Who knows where expenses will be? I think the budget should be respected. It’s short-sighted to spend money as soon as we get it.”
“Look at the budget sheet they gave us,” Carpenter said. “At $12,000 we’re funding all of their advertising and almost all of their entertainment. [The advertising budget is $4,600, and the entertainment budget is $14,000. – Brian Jones] They will have other sponsors. We’re paying for a large percentage of their advertising and entertainment, and they only other thing they have is $4,000 in miscellaneous expenses.”
“At point, though, do they help themselves so we’re not their main funding source?” Wise asked. “We don’t need to be their mother ship of funding.”
“Isn’t that what our budget is set up for?” Buckhalter said.
“What percent?” Wise asked. “What percent should we fund them? Is it 100 percent? Is it 50 percent?”
“It don’t say what percent,” Buckhalter said. “But it was set up to help these festivals, that’s what the money is for. That’s what the legislature set it up for.”
“It’s not to carry a festival,” Wise said. “It’s to give them a base to build off of. I’m not sure if we keep increasing it that they’re going to look for other sources of growth.” “We have the money to do it, so why don’t we do it instead of just trying to cut them off at the hip?” Buckhalter said.
“Twelve thousand dollars is a chunk of change,” Castleberry said. “No other cities—”
“I’m not interested in other cities,” Buckhalter said, interrupting him. “I’m interested in here. And that’s what the legislature says the tax is for.”
“If they ask for 100 percent of their funding, do we give them 100 percent?” Lawrence asked.
“Why not?” Buckhalter said. “Give me one reason why not?”
“Because it should be for start-up, not to fund the entire thing,” Lawrence said. “Give me a reason why we should fund it all.”
“That’s what the money is for,” Buckhalter said.
“We have to be a good steward of the money,” Wise said.
“Did the legislature tell you that?” Buckhalter said.
“Is it fair to give the Link the entire 15 percent?” Byrd asked. “You guys voted to do that. We didn’t have to give them that entire chunk. We did. The legislature said we can give money to festivals. We gave the to the Link without any problem, now you’re saying with these festivals we have to knock it way down.” “We don’t work as individuals, we work as a board,” Castleberry said. “We acted as a board and approved the budget. Individuals have different feelings about different pieces of the budget, but the board accepted this budget.”
“Why does it always come down to balancing the budget?” Buckhalter asked.
Lawrence called for the question, and the discussion ended. The motion passed 6-1, with Buckhalter casting the no vote.

The Tennessee Williams Tribute Festival asked for $16,500. Carpenter recommended $15,000, reiterating her earlier comment that the board had decided to cap festival funding at that amount. [Carpenter said the festival’s total expenses were $28,200. – Brian Jones]
Buckhalter made a motion to fund at $12,000, but it died for lack of a second.
Byrd made a motion to fund at $15,000. Her motion passed 5-2, with Wise and Buckhalter voting no.

Legends Concert
Roger Short represented the Legends committee, and Mayor Robert Smith, Councilmen Bill Gavin and Gene Taylor, and WCBI Assignments Editor Steve Rogers, among other committee members, were present in the audience. [Once again I must point out the fishiness of politicians responsible for appointing CVB members coming to the CVB for funding. Would you ask tough questions or vote to turn down a festival when several members of the board who appointed you are looming in the background? – Brian Jones] CVB Board Member Harvey Myrick, who sits on the Legends committee, recused himself from the discussion and vote and left the room.
“Last year we did accomplish what we wanted to,” Short said. “We had a successful event, but it wasn’t successful the way we wanted it. We took a step back and tried to evaluate last year. This year we’re going on a smaller scale. We are anticipating at some point becoming self-sufficient, but right now we need help.
“Last year we requested, and you folks gave us, $35,000,” Short said. “After listening to what other people are asking for, I’m glad we scaled back by about 38 percent. We’re asking for $22,000 this year. The event will be on October 13 at the Riverwalk stage. Last year we got about a thousand people. This year we’re projecting 800 to 900 people. This event has become an annual event, we pull people from Alabama and Tennessee as well as throughout Mississippi. We are looking at all ages and races.”
According to figures provided by Short, the concert is projecting total expenses of $27,200 and a net income of $2,800.
“We’re not expecting to have a lot left over, but we plan on using that amount as seed money for next year,” Short said.
The concert will feature three bands: The Gents, who are based in Tupelo; Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars, who are from Memphis; and Jimmy Buffet tribute band Parrots of the Caribbean.
“Why is there such a variance in the cost of the entertainment?” George Swales asked.
“We didn’t got after the big names,” Short said. “We didn’t go for the Percy Sledges, the Bobby Blue Blands that we’ve gone after in the past.”
“What are the top three things you’d do different after last year?” Lawrence asked.
“I think we’ve already done them,” Short said, “first of all by scaling back. We will do a VIP this year, but it won’t be like it was last year.”
Carpenter said that the special projects budget for the year was already exhausted. [The Legends Concert would have to be funded as a special project because it only lasts one day. One-day events are prohibited from applying for grants. – Brian Jones]
“[Short] and I met and I told him that the special projects budget has been committed for the year,” Carpenter said. “If there is money, it would be available the month he is having the event. There is no money we have to allocated prior to October 1. There was a lot of controversy after the concert last year, and I think there were a lot of disappointed people. I thought it was best since they are trying to regroup and change the way they are doing business that you hear from them.”
Short said money was needed up front to get performers to commit.
“Last year we lost an artist because we couldn’t commit in time,” he said. “We would like to know there is a possibility of some of this money being allocated before October. I didn’t say half or a quarter, I just said some of it. Please consider that.”
“We have $54.26 in the special projects budget right now,” Carpenter said.
“We can pick up that check in the morning,” Short joked.
There was originally $130,000 in the special projects budget, Carpenter said.
No action was taken.


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