The City Advertising and Promotion Commission held a budget/staff workshop Sept. 9 where commissioner James DeVito said he supports the present structure and sees no need to hire an executive director.
“Owing mostly to the fact that the Paradise Marketing has been performing so well,” DeVito said, and because it would be a cost savings from $75,000 for an ED to $48,000 for an Administrative Director.
Interim-Director Gina Rambo said she recommends full funding for five positions where her position becomes the Marketing Director, combines Karen Pryor’s position into a front-desk and group sales position, and hire someone as Administrative Director.
Rambo said the staff position of Finance Director, held by Rick Bright, and Tracy Johnson’s contract position as Events Coordinator, could remain the same.
Commissioners discussed an administrator position and changing Johnson’s job to a staff position.
Commissioner Susan Harman said she sees no need to hire an administrative director for at least 12 months, and would like to see Johnson become a full-time employee to fill the combined positions of Events Coordinator and part-time Auditorium Manager for the same pay as she is contracted for Events Coordinator, but with benefits.
“She could do both,” Rambo said.
“I think she is fully capable of doing those,” Harman said.
Terry McClung agreed with Harman and said that Johnson could then office out of the Auditorium. “One of these days this is going to be open again,” McClung said, opening the conversation to bringing back crowds into the Auditorium for events.
Bright indicated that staff has discussed events beginning in February 2021.
“Let’s back up a little bit, about next year,” DeVito said. “I don’t envision the pandemic being gone at the start of next year. You can’t tell me that we’re going to be able to use the auditorium next year.”
“We can use it right now, actually,” Bright responded, saying it could be opened at 66 percent capacity with approval from the Arkansas Health Department. Bright also said that despite the mayor’s No-Event-Permit policy, the CAPC does not need a city permit to hold events in the Auditorium.
McClung was encouraged stating, “That is possible.”
“We’ve been living with this for six months,” Harman said referring to the pandemic. “There is still a 99 percent chance out there that you will be just perfectly fine.”
McClung said he would like to see the Events Coordinator actively work on a program to schedule some events. “I think we need to take a proactive attack with this.”
DeVito took a counterpoint saying, “We are not obligated to put on events.” He added that it is also a bad idea to be spending tax money for unadvertised music on private property, speaking specifically of Johnson’s “Overhead Music Series” costing the CAPC $20,000. “It’s a bad idea to begin with,” DeVito said, “I live downtown 24/7, there’s music on the balcony, there’s music on the patio, there’s buskers downtown, there’s plenty of music downtown for people to listen to, we don’t need to be footing the bill for somebody to put music out that’s not going to draw people. What the hell are we doing?”
Commissioner Jeff Carter said he would like a professional opinion from Paradise or a marketing partner on when events are estimated to come back to this area before the CAPC spends money on events and said, “There is a big unknown here.”
“If we are listening to the professionals,” DeVito said, “they are telling us that the fall and winter are going to be hell.” He quoted the CDC and the World Health Organization warning that the flu season on top of the pandemic will make the death toll rise. “These are what the professionals are predicting for the rest of the year. The future does not look good.”
Out-of-town marketers could score big time
During budget discussion, commissioners looked at almost doubling their investment into Paradise Marketing in Florida from $450,000 to $800,000 which includes television advertising and internet marketing. “I’d like to try to give them what they want so they can market us properly,” Carter said.
Carter asked Bright if they can afford this increase and recommended only increasing it to $710,000. Bright said the revenue income is down by $290,000 compared to last year, but with the amended budget the expenses were significantly reduced keeping the reserves of $370,000 untouched. Bright’s total projected budget for 2021 was $1,575,000 which DeVito called, “A pretty rosy scenario,” given how behind on revenue the CAPC is now.
DeVito asked Bright how they will make that up and Bright said, “Next year has nothing to do with this year,” adding “we’re still in good shape.” A vote on the events position, other staffing, and the 2021 budget may take place at the next CAPC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. in the AUD.