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Features TDA approves $15K match for performing arts center

Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing ArtsThe Franklin Tourism Development Authority (TDA) held its monthly meeting Monday night at town hall. Members gathered to look at a funding request from the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, (SMPCA) to listen to a presentation concerning the Winter Wonderland festival and to consider an amendment that would change the amount of funds in their reserve.

Paul Garner, general manager of the performing arts center along with Adam Raymond of Premiere Marketing — the firm that handles the marketing strategy for the TDA — were both in attendance to tell the board how the center would be using any money that was allotted to the facility. Using figures that were collected from the Third Day concert that took place the night before, the duo pointed at the large markets that were being brought into Franklin.

“Attendees came from Greenville, Knoxville, and the Atlanta area as well as other areas in the southeast. Mack—the lead singer of Third Day, actually did a survey in the middle of the show to see where everybody was from,” said Garner. “There was a window of less than three months from when we knew they were coming until [Sunday] night and they still sold out a month in advance.”

Reeman pointed to strategies used from a marketing standpoint that will be used with the requested amount of money.

“If somebody gets on Facebook and see that their friend is attending the show, those people will say 'hey I want to go too',” said Raymond. “For the Third Day show, using email alone, there were 3,000 tickets. This is just from telling people about it.”

At last month's meeting the mindset of the board had been that they would likely approve $15,000 that had been budgeted as “other” expenses if Macon County's Tourism Development Commission matched the $15,000. According to board member Mike Gruberman, the TDC did, in fact, approve the $15,000 at its last meeting.

Town Attorney John Henning Jr. addressed a concern about potentially violating the first amendment if the money were to be approved. With the Sunday morning church services being conducted by Biltmore Baptist Church at the performing arts center, it would be important for the board and the representatives of the SMCPA to come to an agreement that the money would not be used for the church.

“The funds cannot explicitly be used to promote religious activities. It can't appear as though we're establishing a religion,” said Henning. “It's important that we put an agreement into place.”

Garner and Raymond assured the board that there would be no problem in carrying out these wishes, prompting Gruberman to make a motion that the TDA provide the performing arts center $15,000 for marketing purposes. The motion passed unanimously.

Linda Schlott, director of the Main Street Program for the Town of Franklin was also in attendance to give a presentation, as required by the TDA, about the Winter Wonderland event. The request for $2,000 is to go towards marketing.

According to Schlott, this year will be different from the Winter Wonderland of last year.

“There will be more live entertainment. People said that they wanted to see more this year,” she said. “There will also be three nights of wagon rides.”

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Main Street program will kick off the Christmas season with a Tree Lighting and Candlelight service on Friday night and Cookies with Santa on Saturday. According to the submission to the board, the holiday festival will be on Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 from 5 until 10 p.m. with an ice sculpture slide for the kids, wagon rides, and holiday costumed characters. There will also be live entertainment at the gazebo and up and down Main Street. Stores will have hot cider and refreshments and there will be more live music in the First Baptist Church. All of the activities are free.

The board will consider the request at their November meeting.

For the past two months, the board has looked at a big change concerning the amount of money that is kept on reserve. At past meetings, the board has leaned towards changing the amount of money from its current amount of100 percent of their budget or $100,000, to 25 percent of their budget.

Chairman Candy Arvey pointed to the difficulties of having a percentage instead of an actual number.

“I think we just need to come up with a dollar amount. If it is at 25 percent of our budget, it's going to be fluctuating constantly,” said Arvey.

At Tuesday nights meeting, board member Summer Woodard was unable to attend, but Town Manager Warren Cabe filled in for her since she is his appointee to the board on behalf of the town.

“For general accounting purposes, it's much easier to maintain if you do set a dollar figure. Every month you're going to come in and say 'ok how much do we have?’ From the town's perspective, I would be much more comfortable with a set dollar amount,” said Cabe. “Another suggestion I have is that instead of the $25,000 or $100,000, that you just settle on $50,000 for your reserve and the reason being is that if you look at your commitments and what you're bringing in, you have to have money in the bank for those checks to clear. I don't want you to be basically living from month to month with the money you're bringing in.”

Since any amendment to the bylaws would need to be voted on by seven members, no action was taken at the meeting because only six were present. At next month's meeting, which will take place Tuesday, Nov. 12, at town hall at 5:30, Henning will bring an amended text for capping the reserve at $50,000.


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