At its regular monthly meeting on Oct. 10, the Anson County Tourism Development Authority awarded two previous members plaques. TDA chairwoman Jessica Anderson recognized Anna Baucom and Russell Sikes, who wasn’t present at the meeting, for their “dedication to the beginning of the tourism authority.”
Baucom thanked the board for the recognition. “This tourism authority was a labor of love and it got off to a really nice start,” she said. Summarizing the board’s history, she said, “I think this board does very good work.”
Baucom updated the board on the progress the county commissioners have made on projects such as the Belk building, courthouse, hospital plans, agriculture center plans and other projects.
TDA director Dave Smith gave the board his report and summarized his achievements. “When I come to the board and suggest something it is not on a whim,” he said. “I have done some research and made a judgment call that what I propose will be successful and achieve its purpose in increasing our visibility as a tourist destination.”
Smith condemned the board’s decision to reject the request for a video camera for Anson New Technology High School. He also criticized the board’s decision to not fund the Wadesboro stop of Cycle NC’s “Mountains to the Sea” ride, saying that the bikers’ experience could have been improved and that the TDA missed the chance to help influence 1,100 people. When Smith began denouncing individuals in his report, citing that they “don’t have the best interest of Anson County in mind,” Anderson interrupted.
“I’m going to stop this right now,” Anderson said. “We’re going to stop whatever this is for the moment and discuss this further during closed session. I don’t feel like we should start attacking personal people.” Smith maintained that it was “fair game” since they started it last month but Anderson stuck to her decision to move the discussion to closed session.
TDA vice chairman Jeff Boothby provided the financial report. “We had a total growth revenue of about $620,000 last year from our five lodging facilities, which was a total amount of taxes collected of $37,208.10,” Boothby reported, saying that there’s a “definite upturn” in local tourism.
“There was a little bit of talk in the media and all about recovery in the past couple of years, and it’s sometimes hard to see in some of the industries that some of us work in because it’s a little slower in commodities and things than some of the others, but our tourism is improving,” Boothby said. The budget to date shows $10,140 left of director’s fees, $7,505 left for advertising and marketing, all of local event money left, and roughly 86 percent left in miscellaneous funds, a total of $27, 633.20 remaining in the year’s budget, 78.95 percent of the yearly budget.
The board reviewed the two outstanding applications for funding for an art contest and for the Discover Anson bike ride. The board expressed its desire to be a “starting fund” and “wean” groups from the TDA’s funding once they were more independent. Boothby was concerned that the Discover Anson bike ride isn’t profitable though it is starting its seventh year; while he said that the bike ride isn’t breaking even he maintained that it does bring people to Anson County. Anderson was concerned that events would come to rely on TDA as a crutch, but wanted to remind local groups that the board is “a nonprofit that’s giving money to things to start up, and to invigorate the tourism industry in Anson County” by helping create new events. After a vote, the board voted unanimously with Dale Nelson’s motion to fund the entire requested amount of $12,000 with guidelines to chart the progress of the event and an invoice of expenses. This will allow the TDA to chart the bike ride’s progress and to see how its funds are used.
The board also reviewed the funding request for a local art contest. Boothby said that the request was for a small amount but that the event only drew 10 people last year, all of whom were from Anson County, and doubted it fit within the funding guidelines of TDA to bring people from outside the county in. “In its current form, at least, it’s definitely not fundable,” Boothby said. “I don’t know, I think it’s a great program, I really do… but I think our efforts might be more productive and effective using outlets we already have. We have several online websites, where we can get a little information out there without spending money on an event that isn’t going to bring people in from out of town who are going to stay here.” Based on the lack of people from outside the county that the contest draws, Boothby made a motion to deny the request, which was voted unanimously.
Boothby proposed that the TDA join some of the tourist-building organizations in the area to show the TDA’s support, such as the arts council, writer’s club, and Friends of the Pee Dee. Nelson made a motion to join the Anson Arts Council and the writer’s club and to keep the Friends of the Pee Dee in mind for the TDA’s November meeting; the board voted unanimously in favor of the local memberships before going into closed session.