CAPC looks to add seat for outlying shop owners

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Promoter Don McGuire lobbied the City Advertising and Promotion Commission Wednesday night to drop its small claims court action over a $3,700 bill in connection with the 2005 Jazz Festival.

Taking the advice of legal counsel, commissioners listened silently as McGuire described a scenario of being told, apparently by an Auditorium staff member, that "they," in his mind being the CAPC, did not want the show.

After his statement, Commissioner and Mayor Kathy Harrison expressed puzzlement as to "how we got here," and freshman Commissioner KJ Zumwaldt stated that the Auditorium staff had "no right to call it."

A deposition in the case is scheduled to be taken on Sept. 19, McGuire said. He further maintained that he had "never cost the CAPC anything for what I have done. If you can help to put it to bed, I'll help."

Commissioners reviewed possible changes in the CAPC's makeup, with Executive Director Lynn Berry stating that previously the commission had agreed to open a position up to in-town business owners or managers who reside in the county outside the city limits.

Reducing city government representation on the commission to two could be done to accommodate the out-of-city representative.

Commissioner Terry McClung suggested opening all positions to business operators residing outside of town, but Harrison countered that most of the commission members should not live outside of town to keep the commission "answerable to the voters."

Any changes to the commission's makeup with require city council, and probably state legislative, approval.

Former Mayor Beau Satori recalled the history of the commission, noting that in the beginning there was considerable concern that the tax monies not be used to create a slush fund. "The citizens are going to wipe you out," he cautioned.

His presentation included a chart he had created which showed city council cutbacks of 10 to 15 percent for city administration and police while the CAPC overspent $119,000 in 2005, with a "subsidy by the city of $98,000. This year, he said, the city was subsidizing the CAPC with $124,000. He accused them of "blowing" $300,000, second only to 1996, while in the current budget for media buys they failed to spend $40,000, the lowest in 20 years.

Apparently Satori's figures were incomplete, as City Councilman Beverly Blankenship noted that the city gave the CAPC $50,000 to help pay for renovation of the Auditorium, $25,000 for maintenance of the bathrooms at The Auditorium and Pendergrass Corner, and $35,000 for holiday lighting. "That explains some of the big numbers," she said.

Berry also noted that $50,000 went to festivals, and that billing has not yet been received for all of this year's media buys.

Also involving the state legislature, commissioners discussed the city's differences in tax base compared to other advertising and promotion commissions in the state.

For years, legislation has been customized for Eureka Springs using the so-called "Eureka Loop-hole," so the CAPC's makeup is unique. Collection of the CAPC tax from gift shops and attractions is also a singular difference.

McClung recounted proposals to better define gift shops with a 1 percent tax, and said that with the legislature meeting after the first of the year, the time to move is now. ANy changes will also require city council approval.

That matter, as well as that of the makeup of the CAPC, will be addressed in detail at a workshop scheduled for Sept. 6 at 2 p.m.

Berry reported on the commission's holiday lights program, stating that Fire Chief Jim Kelly has determined that the strands and sockets currently being used are not up to code and are a fire danger.

Working with Northwest Arkansas Brite Ideas of Fort Smith, along with Kelly, plans are in place for lights to be up "with no pigtails or extension cords," for a 90-day period, with no permanent lighting unless hardwired at the owner's expense. For the first year, the contract with Brite Ideas includes removal of the lights and storage at a cost of $31,000 to $40,000.

Zumwaldt expressed concern about the long-range cost of the rental program, and suggested that, incrementally, sections of town be hard-wired."We need to step up to code," she said.

McClung suggested that a tenant participation program could be put together, perhaps with matching funds from the city. "To do it again, it's going to take city participation," he said.

Harrison stated that figures on the cost of such a project, developed a few years ago, exist for a system that includes timers and control of when lights are on and off.

Satori renewed his request for $1,700 as reimbursement for 30- by 40-inch frames, from a mobile display rack which he had loaned to the Auditorium, which were thrown away.

He said he was in no hurry for the money, but that he expected to be reimbursed.

Berry tried to counter, noting her use of personal furniture used at the CAPC offices which she supplied without the request of the commission, saying that if it were damaged she would not expect reimbursement. Satori, said, however, that such was not his understanding in his case, and that she was an employee of the CAPC where he was not.

Berry also reported on the progress of a $20,000 invoice from Stone-Ward Advertising Agency, which the commission does not feel it owes.

She has supplied information showing that the commission made not purchased in November and December of 2005, and documenting a programming problem which resulted in the CAPC's on-line newsroom not functioning for a few weeks.

She said she is contesting the billing for the last part of 2005, and has offered to pay half of the $5,000 being billed for the on-line newsroom, and that as of Thursday morning Stone-Ward had not taken the offer.

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