The Convention and Visitors Bureau, during an uncharacteristically brief and peaceful October 15 meeting, discussed their financial situation, heard a report on a possible barbeque competition and fielded some e-mailed questions from board member Whirllie Byrd, who was not present.
[This was the CVB’s second consecutive meeting with no major blowups. The meeting was professional, courteous and brief. As the meeting broke up President DeWitt Hicks joked that all the meetings have been calm since Leon Ellis joined the board. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see one of the area’s most notoriously contentious boards working together so harmoniously. – Brian Jones]
“September was the end of our financial year,” reported Treasurer Bart Wise. “We ended in the black. There were a few areas we’ll continue to work on that were over budget. We were very fortunate that the revenue side came in higher than we anticipated.”
“We had a year-end balance of $91,000?” asked Bernard Buckhalter.
“It was,” Wise said.
Leon Ellis questioned what he saw as excessive legal fees.
“Can we look into our legal expenses?” Ellis asked. “Maybe we need to hire a lawyer that doesn’t need to research everything. I’m trying to be nice, but it’s something that concerns me.” [Last month’s legal bills came to $2,600. – Brian Jones]
“We talked about that at the executive committee meeting,” said President DeWitt Hicks. “I’ve asked [Board Attorney Chris Latimer] to contact me. We can’t be having bills like this every month.”
“One of the things that created some additional expenses is certain issues that board members have had where they’ve gone around the executive director and straight to the attorney,” Wise said. “That was one of the reasons that we implemented that everything goes through the board and the executive director and not contact the attorney directly.”
“That is our policy, and we need to abide by it,” Hicks said.
“That’s really what has happened, but as I looked over this bill…$1,660 has to do with inquires at board meetings, not privately, by a particular board member asking about CVB compliance with public procurement laws, for instance,” said Executive Director Nancy Carpenter. “I already knew that we needed to comply with public procurement laws, but three hours was spent on that and 2.6 hours on board members’ access to documents. A lot has been spent on the CVB vehicle. About 56 percent of that $1,660 had to do with that. There’s another bill, $2,300, and 73 percent had to do with a particular board member. It should be around $1,000 or less.” [Ms. Carpenter is speaking of Ms. Byrd’s questions at recent board meetings. – Brian Jones]
“Maybe I spoke a little bit too soon,” Ellis said. “If a thousand-dollar bill is not that outrageous. If board members are going to him directly he needs to be instructed to tell them to go through you or the board.”
“My point is that I don’t think that’s happening,” Carpenter said. “In our meetings it’s coming up that he is to research something. We had a meeting with a board member who had some issues, and he came to that board meeting.”
The board unanimously approved the financials. [Board members Byrd, Mark Castleberry and Nadia Dale were not present at Monday’s meeting. – Brian Jones]
Mike Law returned to discuss a potential upcoming barbeque competition. Law spoke briefly to the board last month, but returned Monday with more details.
“It’s not affiliated with Roast and Boast,” he said. “It’s a new event that we have a chance to host. It’s a Memphis Barbeque Network invitational contest. It will bring in about 60 teams from across the Southeast for about four days in the first part of March. There will also be about 120 judges. I put some very conservative numbers together. With those 60 teams, there will probably be about four people on each. That’s 240 people. Then you have meals and entertainment while they’re here over four days, and gas and groceries. This event has been held in Tunica and Georgia in the past.
“There is some urgency to get back to them, because they need to know that we are interested,” he said. “We’re asking for your help on this event. Again, it’s a new event that’s not affiliated with any of the local contests. I know you have changed how you allocate money, but we’re hoping that something can be done.”
“Is this a rotating type event? You mentioned that it’s been in Tunica and Georgia,” Wise said. “Sounds like it moves around from year to year. Is that correct?”
“We approached them several years ago,” Law said. “They came back to us about a month ago because they know we’ve got the facilities. The fairground has been updated, it’s really unbelievable.”
“I think Mr. Wise’s question goes to the fact that’s it’s part of our mission to help new events get started,” Hicks said.
“I feel like if we get it and we can pull it off we’ll get it every year after that,” Law said.
“Do you have a projected budget, and if so where is the other money coming from? What is it going to cost…is the prize money coming out of your budget?” asked Harvey Myrick.
“The people that participate in this don’t pay,” Law said. “It’s an invitational. The money that we spend we have to take care of. We have to provide restroom facilities and electricity. At Roast and Boast we spent thousands of dollars on electricity. The prize money, we have to raise that also. It’s up to us.”
“Is it strictly a contest?” asked Rissa Lawrence.
“We will have 25 local teams at a parallel contest,” Law said. “We’ll have entertainment and vendors. We have one local team that will be in the invitational, and then the others will be in the parallel contest.”
Law asked for $15,000.
“I think your rules say up to $15,000, and I’ll take the up to,” Law said. “We need the up to. We’ve already approached a number of people in town to help us out.”
Carpenter said she asked Law to come in November with a detailed presentation.
The board took no action.
Although Byrd was not present Monday night, she submitted some questions for Carpenter. Carpenter addressed them during her report at the end of the meeting.
“I received an e-mail at 2:30 this afternoon from [Byrd],” Carpenter said. “She had some questions. She asked that Bernard Buckhalter bring these to your attention. [Buckhalter] and I spoke and I’m going to bring them to your attention.
“Her first question was what was the problem with the CVB bus that caused it to break down during the fall home tour,” Carpenter said. “She said she was informed that visitors were stranded at Rosedale until a van was sent to pick them up. Visitors were never stranded. Alternate transportation was already arranged and was waiting on them. I don’t know where she was getting her information, but that is an incorrect statement.
“She also asked how cost effective the home tours are,” Carpenter said. “Home owners are paid $300 per time they are on tour. It’s cost effective when you have out of state visitors come in. This is a Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation event. We had about 60 people on the bus tour Saturday morning. On that tour we had some people from the CAFB reunion of the class of 1970. They had not returned to Columbus in quite some time, and they went on two home tours, ate downtown and they all shopped downtown.
“The Dispatch gave us a rose for helping with two weddings. She asked about how the CVB got involved in two weddings, and where the weddings were held,” Carpenter said. “The double-decker bus was rented to take wedding guests to receptions. One was in West Point, the other was on Evans Road. There was a third wedding that hosted guests from outside the United States. When this happens, we are asked to make gift bags. She asked what the criteria is for the CVB to host weddings. I think host is a bad word, I’m just reading the questions. I’m happy to help anyone who wants to bring tourists to Columbus, whether they are brides or grooms or football players.
“Please explain the reason the CVB logo was on the ad for the Walk for Diabetes,” Carpenter said. “Did the CVB pay for the ad? The ad was billed to me and to Dan Bennett. We paid for the team from the CVB to walk. My parents both had diabetes.”
The board took no action on Carpenter comments, nor did they ask questions.