Commissioners refused to approve a new TDC contract with public relations firm Geiger and Associates.
At their Sept. 4 meeting, the Franklin County Tourist Development Council (TDC) recommended renewal of all existing vendor contracts, including Geiger’s, with a single blanket vote.
TDC board member Paul Parker presented the TDC’s recommendations to commissioners at the Sept. 19 county meeting.
As part of what the TDC is calling a tight budget, $37,000 was again earmarked for Geiger in the 2013-14 budget.
After examining copies of the proposed contracts, Chairman Cheryl Sanders said, “I have a question. For the last two years, the commission has been kind of concerned about Geiger and I see you put it back in.”
Geiger & Associates Public Relations, Inc. is a firm that specializes in promoting tourism destinations. From 2007 until 2012, Geiger brought groups of freelance travel writers to the county where they received free food lodgings and entertainment to encourage publications promoting the area.
Fran Edwards TDC administrative assistant said the writers published more 300 articles over the duration of the program with an estimated advertising value of more that $2 million.
At their Feb. 7 meeting last year, the county commission voted unanimously to cancel Geiger’s fall tour of the county and reduce annual funding for the firm from $75,000 to $37,000. The money not spent on Geiger was distributed among the visitor’s centers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner William Massey moved to refuse the Geiger contract and his motion passed unanimously.
Sanders said, “We want somebody that’s more representative of the whole county.”
TDC Director Curt Blair said he would come back to the commission with other suggestions for spending the $37,000. He indicated it might be used to bolster support for not for profits.
The commission then voted to accept the rest of the contracts recommended by the TDC with Commissioner Smokey Parrish opposed.
Eastpoint visitor center discussed
Commissioners Pinki Jackel and Massey asked Parker if the TDC had located sufficient money to renovate the old highway patrol station located at 731 US 98 and convert it to a visitor center for Eastpoint.
Earlier this year, commissioners asked the TDC to seek funding for the center.
Parker said, “We were hoping if the original tax had passed we could really do it up right.”
He said the TDC has a contingency reserve of a little over $200,000, which is more than the $90,000 originally discussed for the renovation project.
“Is the money there now?” asked Jackel.
Blair said, “The reserve is in the (county) budget you approved last night.”
Commissioner Noah Lockley asked if the visitor center would be private.
“Are you going to lease it to the TDC? You’ve got to work that out,” he said.
Jackel replied that the St. George Island Visitor Center is run by a private entity (The Apalachicola Maritime Museum), but the building is not leased.
Jackel said, “Do we need a motion to use funds for the Eastpoint Visitor Center?”
Sanders suggested the TDC further clarify their proposal.
She said, “Why don’t you discuss it and come back to the meeting with more about how it would work. A business plan basically.