Finding volunteers to serve on the Franklin Tourism Development Authority (TDA) board has been an ongoing problem for the board, but after Monday night's meeting, the TDA is a little closer to filling the nine member board.
Monday night, the TDA voted unanimously to recommend the appointment of Josh Drake, co-owner of Mulligan's Bar and Grille, and Leland Rykse, with Signs Express to the Franklin Town Board. “I am excited that the TDA is recommending me for a seat on the board,” said Drake. “I look forward to the opportunity to help Franklin grow their tourism.”
As an authority board, the TDA recommends board members for approval to the town aldermen, who have the final say in making appointments to the board.
The Franklin TDA is responsible for promoting travel and tourism in Franklin. The board may also conduct or cooperate with other entities in preserving, enhancing and programming the historic and natural environment and sponsoring programs and activities designed to upgrade services to improve Franklin's attraction to its visitors. The board is also responsible for the distribution of funds collected through the town's room-occupancy tax, which is collected through hotels, bed and breakfast, and rental properties located within the Town of Franklin.
In the past, the TDA has had difficulty filling all nine seats on the board. Currently, the TDA has six members, leaving three seats up for grabs. Lack of interest in the board has not been the only factor making it difficult to fill the vacant seats. According to state statute, the TDA membership must be at least one-third comprised of members who are affiliated with businesses that collect the room occupancy tax in the town and at least three-fourths of the members must be individuals who are active in the promotion of travel and tourism in the town.
Of the six members currently on the board, two members, Candy Presley with Microtel and Vickie Springer with Mountain Vacation Rentals and Sales, are the only two current members who collect the room occupancy tax in the town. The other four members, Matt Bateman with Stay and Play in the Smokies, Summer Woodard with the Town of Franklin, Mike Grubermann with the Oak Hill Country Inn Bed and Breakfast, and Cheryl Pullium with Jamison Jewelers, would all be considered individuals currently active in the promotion of travel and tourism in the town.
Because of the wording in the state statute, there are nine businesses located within Franklin that would be able to fill the requirement of collecting the room occupancy tax, leaving the pool of possible candidates considerably limited.
While the TDA voted to recommend Drake and Ryske, the board decided to wait on making a decision regarding the application received by Benjamin Vanhook with Mountain Pro Real Estate, because of the uncertainty of having an empty seat versus, not filling the ratio of membership requirement.
With an annual budget of $100,000, members of the TDA have been working on a marketing strategy that would allow the board to begin each fiscal year, which starts July 1, with a plan on how funds will be distributed throughout the year. This past year, the TDA granted funding requests for advertising and festivals that promoted tourism to Franklin on a month-to-month basis based on requests received. As the board nears its 2012-13 fiscal year, which ends June 31, its $100,000 has been reduced to a $5,842. The board was faced with requests without funds available to fill them.
In attempt to be fair to all those requesting funds from the TDA, the board members began to develop the marketing strategy and prioritized the events based on when they are scheduled to occur. Monday night, the TDA allocated the board's remaining funds for three festivals scheduled either before the end of the fiscal year, or immediately thereafter.
The funds requested were $2,500 for the four-day Taste of Scotland Festival, $1,500 for the two-day Airing of the Quilts Festival, and $2,000 for the one-day Folk Festival. With $6,000 in requests, and only $5,842 in the TDA's budget, the board deliberated on how to spend the money.
Bateman made a motion to allocate $2,500 for Taste of Scotland, $1,300 for Airing of the Quilts, and $2,000 for the Folk Festival, which would total $5,800. Springer seconded the motion, and with another “yes” vote from Grubermann, Bateman's motion received three “yes” votes and three “no” votes from Presley, Woodard and Pullium. Without the majority of the vote, Bateman's motion failed to pass.
Woodard voiced concern about depleting the TDA's budget in the event something comes up unexpectedly between now and the June 31 fiscal year deadline. Grubermann argued that if something were to come up, that is what the board's $100,000 reserve was for. Woodard said she would like to see a compromise between funding the events, saving some money in case of an emergency, and not needing to tap into the reserve.
Springer made a motion to fund all three events with a $250 reduction to each event's request. Springer's motion called for the allocation of a total $5,250 from the TDA's budget, which would leave about $600 left to finish out the year. Pullium seconded Springer's motion and with Presley and Woodard casting “yes” votes, and Grubermann and Bateman voting “no,” the motion carried 4-2.
The next scheduled meeting of the Franklin TDA is set for Monday, May 13, at 5:30 at Franklin Town Hall.