- Published on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 22:05
- Written by Super User
The Carolina Beach Boardwalk, amusement rides and Thursday night entertainment at the gazebo. The Council voted February 19, to fully fund events held by the Carolina Beach Downtown Initiative. (CBDI)
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council approved funding for the Carolina Beach Downtown Initiative (formerly Boardwalk Makeover group) at their February 19, meeting.
The Council previously postponed approval of the funding at their February 12, meeting due to questions regarding funds for marketing and changes to the Boardwalk gazebo. Also, the Council asked the Chamber of Commerce to take over Thursday night music events in the summer since they already handle fireworks displays on the same nights.
According to a letter from the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors sent to the Council on Friday February 15, during questions after their February 12, proposal, Council member Sarah Friede started a dialogue that concluded in the request that the Chamber take over the Boardwalk Thursday night music program which began and is operated by the Boardwalk Makeover Group. Greg Reynolds' response was that he would take that request to the Chamber Board at their next meeting the following morning.
Brett Keeler of the Boardwalk Makeover Group, now called the Carolina Beach Downtown Initiative (CBDI), presented a request for various activities which included $20,000 for Thursday night music.
The Council tabled that request until February 19.
At the Chamber's Board of Directors meeting on February 13, the item was discussed with a 12 to 1 vote that the Chamber would take over the Thursday night event if it was the only way to keep if from elimination.
According to the Chamber's letter to the Town, the Chamber did not seek or request this transfer of programs at any time. The CBDI had not approached or requested the Chamber to adopt their program. The letter states, "We understand they have every intention of continuing this program."
The letter stated in a preliminary review, the costs would be greater than the requested $20,000 from CBDI by some $2,250. The Chamber would need to increase their volunteer base and further research and discussion would be needed to ascertain all elements of a successful program with costs and manpower identified.
The letter posed the question, "Has the Council discussed this with representatives of the CBDI?"
The letter stated, "At this point, we would encourage a meeting of representatives of the Council and CBDI to discuss this specific item further and see if there is common ground for continuation of this very successful program. Therefore, we respectfully request further dialogue among all parties prior to our final decision."
The funding for the CBDI comes from room occupancy tax funds generated by hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals. Of those funds, a portion is used for events that increase tourism or "put more heads on beds" in local lodging accommodations.
On Monday the CBDI issued a release encouraging people to support them at the February 19, Council meeting.
The release stated, "As you may know the Boardwalk Makeover summer event series is partially funded by Room Occupancy Tax dollars (ROT funding). No CB taxpayer dollars are used. By law, ROT dollars can only be used to promote tourism - which our events do. For the last five years the Boardwalk Makeover Group has received ROT funding. We use those funds, along with private funding, for improvement projects and to bring other events to our town, such as Christmas by the Sea and Island Day."
The release stated, "We also run Wednesday night BINGO. Our profits from bingo are donated to our local non-profit organizations, such as; Help Center, Senior Center, Kure Beach Community Center, Polar Plunge, Joe Eakes Park, Boy Scouts, Ashley High School Track Fund, and many others."
The release stated, "At the last town meeting, council postponed our funding request until next Tuesday’s meeting, stating that they were considering taking away our funding for Thursday night music and asking another organization to run that event. Since that meeting we have been informed that they are looking to do the same with Tuesday Family Night. This was a surprise to us, as our group has never received any notification from council or the town of such intentions, nor has council ever asked to meet with us to discuss any concerns related to funding."
The release stated, "Since the creation of our group, we have produced over 250 events for the community. We created these events – we did not take them from another group or from the town. However, despite the hard work required to create these events, our
successful management of such – and the fact that we do not use taxpayer dollars – our ROT funding is in question. We understand that our events should be consistent with council’s vision for the town, and that has always been our goal. We also understand that council recommends where the ROT funds are used. Still, we have worked hard to make these events successful and our volunteers do not feel they are council’s to take and give."
The CBDI stated, "Not only is our group currently running these events properly and safely, we are doing them with an all volunteer staff and for less cost. In the process we are using extra funds we raise to take care of the Boardwalk area and
bring even more events to the town for our locals to enjoy. We also contribute the BINGO money raised to support our local non-profit groups – contributions that directly benefit our citizens."
CBDI asked citizens and volunteers to attend the February 19, meeting to support their efforts and to call elected leaders to express support.
At the February 19, meeting Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "The issue I brought up last week didn’t have anything to do with the music or who was delivering the music, it dealt on some other issues. I have no problem hearing from Mr. [Dan] Wilcox on the history of the music or how they want to move forward with it. But I want to make it perfectly clear in a 100% transparent meeting that there was never a discussion by this Council to not fund any of the events. There was no discussion about Tuesday night, no discussion about Christmas by the Sea. The discussion was shifting the funding from one entity to another. So the uproar this past week about being accused of not wanting to fund the events on the boardwalk is misfounded and ill placed."
He explained, "I've repeatedly said I don't care who puts on the music. I don't care if they get paid for it. Its not an issue of people getting paid for services they provide. The issue for me was about the number of volunteers that may or may not be available and trying to streamline something. That set off a firestorm with people threatening and calling me up to tell me I'm not going to do this or I'm not going to do that unless you do the package deal, that's a response and a choice."
He explained, "That was not the direction of this council person or the council. I just want to get that on the record. There was never a discussion about not funding Tuesday night, or bingo or Christmas by the Sea or anything else. So the actions and reactions were a little extreme."
Shuttleworth said, "I'm happy to hear from Mr. Wilcox on the history of the music and how we can move forward through the Boardwalk Makeover or the CBDI. I have some questions furthermore about, it wasn't an impropriety and no one has ever accused anyone of impropriety. What we've said is some transparency."
Shuttleworth questioned the structure of the CBDI and their non-profit corporate structure.
He said, "All I've asked for is transparency."
Shuttleworth said, "Share the books. Share the funding. Show us what's going on. Transparency. Dan, transparency means when the Town gives you guys $25,000 a year to run music and sound and then you turn around and apparently get sponsors for Thursday night and sell raffle tickets and then give that money away to other people, I have people that ask me what’s going on down there and I say I don't know, we're doing a lot of great events, they work really hard, its good for the Island. That doesn't always work for some people."
CBDI said they make donations to many area non-profits.
Shuttleworth said, "I personally do not appreciate people saying if you don't, I won't and its a package deal and trying to jam us up and say this is the way it is, its our way or the highway. That sir was a little extreme."
Prior to the meeting Wilcox commented the Thursday night music program and other events build upon each other. Money raised at one can help fund another in addition to funds raised by sponsors and raffle tickets that are often used to make donations to various non-profits such as the senior center, school sports programs and others. Also, funds raised through sponsorships can be used to make other improvements and help build a reserve for capital projects or in the future if funding falls short.
Wilcox said the financial information for CBDI is available and the Town can make requests about specific items of interest.
Brett Keeler of CBDI said members of Council did make a request to see financial information at a previous meeting and CBDI agreed to an audit if the Town had specific requests. Also, that the Town use the same audit compliance requirement made incumbent upon every other private and non-profit partner that receives subsidies from the Town.
CBDI currently provides accounting of room occupancy tax funds granted by the Council on an annual basis.
Councilman Shuttleworth made a motion to fund the CBDI for the Thursday night and Tuesday night events as well as insurance.
He said, "For future discussion and facilitation was the gazebo and the advertising."
The Town Manager will work on a contract between the Town and CBDI.
The $7,500 for marketing was not included as originally requested. The Council encouraged CBDI to work through another existing marketing vehicle managed by the Tourism Development Authority which also uses room occupancy tax funds to promote tourism in the County.
The County voted unanimously.