Mayor's theatrics lead to CAPC's Berry to defend expenditures

Thursday, May 18, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A theatrical demonstration by Mayor Kathy Harrison and her husband, Larry, during the May Festival of the Arts Artrageous Parade on May 6 has prompted City Advertising and Promotion Commission Executive Director Lynn Berry to respond regarding money appropriated by the city to the CAPC.

The first, Berry said, is $25,000 from the city's general fund for the line item for cleaning the two restrooms at Pendergrass Corner and on Main Street at The Auditorium.

Previously, Berry said, for more than five years the city had provided money to the CAPC to offset cleaning and maintenance of the two restrooms, at amounts ranging from $32,000 to $35,000. "None of these figures are the amount needed to maintain these two restrooms seven days a week,' Berry said. "In most municipalities it falls to public works."

She added that five years ago the restrooms were in "a horrible state" due to the lack of attention.

"At the time the discussion was why are we spending money to bring people here and gross them out with our public restrooms," she said, "so I am very proud of the job The Auditorium staff does to keep them well-stocked and clean."

The second expenditure is $58,417, the debt for a bond under a Save America's Treasures Grant. That bond, Berry notes, was not incurred by the CAPC, but by the city on a city-owned building, The Auditorium.

She recalled that "The excitement of being able to get matching funds through the grant propelled a discussion made then by the former executive director, Barbara King Dozier, and was signed by Mayor Kathy Harrison." The bond was never voted on by the CAPC, Berry added, and she described what transpired as "a gentlemen's agreement."

The third appropriation was $41,000 for the CAPC and Transit Department. Approved unanimously by the CAPC, which included Harrison, the money was to be used to allow an official city welcome center to take the place of the Chamber of Commerce office when the Chamber moved to its facilities in Pine Mountain Village.

"It was ear-maked for additional staff necessary to handle the influx of visitors, over and above the transit staff and their regular job in a city-owned building," Berry said. "It was a one-time monetary amount needed in transition from a Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center to the city's welcome center."

Berry said that Mayor Harrison seems to believe that the city is supplementing the CAPC, and she can understand how some people could view those dollar amounts and intergovernmental exchanges without an explanation, and it be something that they might not understand.

"But all of this has been discussed at City Council and CAPC meetings," Berry said, "and indeed, the Mayor voted for two of the three transactions."

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