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Features TDA’s financial statements don’t quite add up

Representatives from Streets, the Main Street Program, Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, and Dashboard and Saddlebags attended the TDA meeting to discuss grant requests. Members of the Enforcers motorcycle club attended the meeting to show support for the Smoky Mountain Rumble.The Franklin Tourism Development Authority (TDA) heard updates from multiple TDA funded projects as well as considered grant requests for upcoming tourism boosting events in Franklin.

After Chairman Candy Presley opened the meeting, Summer Woodard, chair of the finance/ budget sub-committee, informed the board that after receiving $12,199.87 in room occupancy tax for the month of July, and paying necessary bills for advertising and grant requests, the TDA currently has a remaining balance of $18,977.83. According to Woodard, the board currently has commitments for the remainder of the year totaling $56,800.68.

TDA member Mike Grubermann noted that although the current balance is significantly less than the less commitments listed on the Room Occupancy Tax Report, the current budget does not reflect August's room occupancy tax, as it runs a month behind. Both Woodard and Grubermann agreed that although the numbers appeared a bit skewed, the TDA was in a strong financial position.

After the financial report, the TDA first heard a grant request from the Charlotte based Dashboard & Saddlebags magazine. According to magazine publisher Andy Jay, the magazine is a pocket size publication that is heavily distributed around the Lake Norman area and caters to the 45-plus, 100K average income demographic. “We want to let people in and around the Charlotte area know of things happening within a 200-mile radius, and help them plan a nice weekend vacation or just a day trip to other parts of the state,” said Jay.

Jay informed the TDA of a range of advertising options from $100 to $900 monthly. With various advertising options that could promote things such as PumpkinFest or Winter Wonderland, the town would have a unique opportunity for an affordable way to reach the Charlotte market, he said.

The board voted to table Jay's request to allow more time to review the advertising rate sheet and decide what would be best for tourism in Franklin.

On behalf of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, Nikki Corbin requested $10,000 from the TDA to help promote the center's November events. According to Corbin, the majority of the people who attended shows at the performing arts center in August were from outside of the Franklin area. The board previously approved $10,000 in funds to go toward the performing arts center advertising budget to reach the Atlanta market.

In August, the grant request for the performing arts center was voted to be placed on the agenda for the Oct. 8 TDA meeting to allow for review of the TDA's budget. When asked why the grant request was moved to September, Presley noted that she was absent during the August meeting and said that unless all grant requests were moved to October, none should be.

TDA member Matt Bateman, who made the motion to table the grant request until the October meeting voiced his concern about discussing such a large grant, when the TDA has yet to pay the $10,000 previously granted to the performing arts center. Although Bateman explained his reasoning for his motion, which was seconded by Grubermann and passed unanimously, Presley said that unless the TDA wanted to table all requests until October's meeting, they should take up the performing arts center’s request with the others.

After further discussion, on a motion made by TDA member Vickie Springer, due to the number of other grant requests and the current budget, the TDA voted to allocate $5,000 to the performing arts center for the November events.

Also present seeking TDA support, was Martha Holbrook on behalf of the non-profit organization, Streets. After originally coming before the board in August to request funds for the monthly event StreetFest, Holbrook returned to inform the TDA that in compliance with the recommendations of town attorney John Henning Jr., the group has secured insurance for StreetFest and had properly reformed the non-profit Streets to legally be identified as an organization.

Woodard informed Holbrook that she had not yet received a copy of the insurance policy, and due to the lack of insurance, could not vote to approve funding for the event. According to Wayah Insurance, Streets had secured adequate coverage for the StreetFest events, and a copy of the insurance has been mailed to the town on August 16. Woodard continued to state that she had not seen the insurance. Holbrook offered to provide the TDA with a hard copy of the insurance Monday night, but they did not take it.

Woodard then stated that she did not want to approve the funding request based on legality reasons. According to both Woodard and Grubermann, they had reservations about granting funding to Streets because they claimed it was not properly organized and reformed from the original Streets board, which hadn't met since 2010.

Holbrook told the TDA that members of the original Streets met and held an election and appointed new officers, as stated in the Streets bylaws, which states that election of the Board is the responsibility of the members and that any officer may be removed, with or without cause, by the members at any time. According to the bylaws, by holding a meeting of Streets and electing a new board, the non-profit was reinstated as recommended by the TDA in August.

Woodard and Grubermann still questioned the legality of the process. Although legality was in question before the grant request was presented at the meeting, no member of the TDA requested Henning Jr. be present on Monday to answer any questions.

Woodard motioned to deny the grant request based on “simple legality.”

Springer requested that instead of denying the request, the board vote to table the discussion until the October meeting. Although Presley suggested earlier in the meeting to table all grant requests until October, she said the Streets grant request couldn't be tabled until October since the meeting was to be a board retreat and no grant requests will be considered at that time.

The TDA voted to deny Streets funding requested. Woodard informed Holbrook that after ensuring the legality of assuming the nonprofit status of the original organization, she could return to the TDA in November and make the request again.

The ‘Legality’

According to the TDA Rules of Procedure: Article 2: Powers, Duties, Objectives, and Mission, “The Board may also conduct or cooperate with other entities in preserving, enhancing and programming our historic and natural environment and sponsoring programs and activities designed to upgrade services to improve Franklin’s attraction to its visitors.

In the state's Session Law 2004-105, Senate Bill 1060, the TDA should use at least 2/3 of the funds remitted to it to promote travel and tourism, “to advertise or market an area or activity, publish and distribute pamphlets and other materials, conduct market research or engage in similar promotional activities that attract tourists or business travels to the area or tourism related expenditures that in the judgement of the TDA, are designed to increase the use of lodging facilities, meeting facilities, or convention facilities in the town or to attract tourists or business travelers to the town.”

Based on the TDA's Rules of Procedure and Session Law, money can be granted to any entity that qualifies, and nowhere does it say, including on the funding grant request form, that funds can only be awarded to a non-profit.

New business

The TDA also took up new business that included a billboard request from Ron Haven on behalf of the annual Gun Show. Haven requested the use of the TDA's available billboards to advertise for the gun show. The TDA has permanent billboard space, which costs $1,820 per month for all billboards leased by the town. The TDA allows organizations to use the space for free, as long as the requesting organization pays for the installation of the grahics on the billboard being used. Haven requested use of any billboards available in November, which after allowing Linda Schlott the use of six billboards, two for PumpkinFest, two for Winter Wonderland and two for Shop Franklin First, there was one available for use by someone other than the Town of Franklin or Franklin's Main Street Program.

Smoky Mountain Rumble event promoter Sylvia Cochran spoke to the board to give an update. Cochran noted that according to media reports, Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland and Franklin Mayor Joe Collins cited no problems with the rally and both hope it can grow in the future.

Cochran said that it was impossible for her to determine the number of bikers who visited the rally. She did believe that moving into town would increase the number of visitors in the future. Cochran submitted a proposal for the 2013 rally, requesting $12,000 from the TDA for advertising and promotion of the event, which they would like to hold on the fourth weekend in August.

Ron Smith, promoter of the annual Ruby Bash motorcycle rally, which just celebrated the 4th annual event, pleaded with the board to not allow the Rumble Rally to be held during the same time of year as his rally. Smith stated that this year, the Ruby Bash saw half of the average attendees, which affected the community fundraisers the event hosts such as funding for REACH and the annual toy drive.

Smith noted that he had run the rally for four years, and has helped with it for five, and works to build the rally around the Franklin community, whereas the Rumble Rally promoters are from Helen, Ga.

According to Smith, if the promoters can't work out an arrangement to be featured at different times of the year, he would not be able to continue his event due to the lack of attendance since it was being held the week after the Rumble Rally.

“To be honest, I took a vacation during the rally because I didn't want to be in Franklin because I was tired of dealing with it,” said Presley. Presley informed Smith, that the board would consider his request when reviewing Cochran's proposal.

Before adjourning, Bateman requested the Board consider a different date for the October retreat because he would not be able to attend. Presely informed Bateman the board would not consider his request because the retreat was scheduled on a regular meeting date and she did not want to stray from the calendar despite his absence.

The next TDA meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8, at Town Hall.


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