Southport has been without a Director of Tourism since the first part of April 2010. We've been aware the position would be vacant since the board retreat in January 2010. Based on public comments at the board meetings, and letters to the editor in the State Port Pilot, some folks didn't know we had a Director of Tourism and were against "adding" the staff position. Since that time a committee was formed to create a job description for an enhanced position of Director of Tourism and Economic Development. Both of these areas are intertwined and intimately related.
|A yawn or a holler?|
The question of authorizing the City Manager to seek candidates and hire a Director of Tourism and Economic Development has come up before the board at least 2 times since the committee made its recommendations (and the job description) in July. Both times it has been postponed, and the need for such a position in Southport has been questioned. If you doubt that we need someone to help draw folks to Southport year around, please speak with a local merchant.
At our December board meeting I put the item on the agenda, but I failed to label it as an action item (my bad!). When I realized the error, and received a valid concern from a fellow Alderman, I withdrew my motion and put it on the agenda for January 13, 2011. At that meeting, after endorsements from myself and Alderman Boguskie, the motion passed unanimously! And never was heard a discouraging word from the mayor or the board. Absolutely nothing had changed since it was brought up in July, but apparently by January 13, 2011 everything was cool.
The other item was a complete and absolute shock to my system.
The Rescue Squad had asked for $1,000 in order to apply for a grant to help them purchase a new ambulance. The current one is from 1990 and is borderline dangerous to drive at the speed limit, well into dangerous if driven at the higher speed required for most rescue uses. In July 2010 the Rescue Squad made the same request, except that they had 2 grant possibilities that would have a total cost of $1,500 if they got the grants. It was opposed by the mayor and 3 board members because the mayor wanted to see if the county would take over our Rescue Squad as part of a report he was compiling about paying taxes to the county and the city for the same services (the Rescue Squad being one). OK, so don't let our existing squad try to get some money for an ambulance because of the possibility--remote in my mind--that the county would take them over? Wouldn't they still need the ambulance? If the county took over wouldn't they pay for the grants in order to get the money for a new ambulance? I saw no downside whatsoever, so the response of the mayor and the board was puzzling to me.
Alderman Boguskie and I met with Brunswick County Emergency Services EMS Division Director Brian Watts, who told us that having the county take over the Southport Rescue Squad was extremely remote for financial reasons, and because the squad had improved greatly over the past few years.
After that meeting, I brought the issue up again at the next board meeting. I was chastised for bringing up items that had been previously decided, but I felt the new information from the county EMS would have an effect on how the aldermen voted. AND even if the county took over the rescue squad the grants could be helpful, or we could pull out of the process at any time. The opportunity to get free money for such an important item was worth going through the process. If they didn't get the grant(s), it would cost the city nothing. Again, the vote was 3 to 3 and the mayor broke the tie by voting against allowing the Rescue Squad to apply for the grants.
I was flabbergasted that the board and the mayor would not allow these grant requests to move forward.
Low and behold, at our January 13, 2011 meeting, the mayor placed an item on the agenda that night: a request by the Rescue Squad to apply for a grant to help them purchase a new ambulance (the second grant's deadline had passed, so only one other grant was available--cutting the odds in half). The mayor went on to say many of the same things I said to the aldermen in vain at 2 previous meetings. Now the mayor was solidly behind the Rescue Squad even though the discussions to have the county take it over have yet to begin. The result was a unanimous vote in favor of allowing them to apply for the grant.
In both cases I will certainly not complain about the results (except the delay caused the Rescue Squad to miss an additional grant opportunity). I suppose the collective board members and the mayor needed the extra time to process the information and come to a decision with which they felt comfortable.
Maybe they just didn't want to hear it from me (a distinct possibility).
Whatever the case, like most things in politics there is no easily identifiable reason for what goes on.