VCVB approves Alliance request for ad campaign|[1/28/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 30, 2006

A day after a contentious four-hour meeting was adjourned with issues pending, the board of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau tied up loose ends in a less heated setting Friday night.

The seven members of the 11-member board present for the vote – Tim Darden, David Maggio, Bill Collins, Bobby Bailess, Lamar Roberts, Bobbie Morrow and Pattie Cappaert – unanimously approved a request from the Vicksburg Warren Community Alliance for $20,000 to fund an ad campaign in surrounding states. The item had been taken under advisement Thursday as a request for $37,000, but was amended after VCVB interim director Clara Ross Stamps and Alliance representative Tom Pharr met Friday and determined some of the proposed costs were duplicated by both boards. Member Bobby Doyle arrived to the meeting after the vote.

In addition to Alliance, the VCVB is set to fund $24,000 of the campaign, which will produce TV and radio spots, billboards and ticket giveaways in Little Rock, Monroe and Jackson and print ads in Dallas. Some of the ads will include a new Web site that the board has not yet publicized, said Stamps.

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The board reviewed departmental reports and went in to executive session to discuss personnel matters before adjourning without taking any further action.

The meeting was again held at the Vicksburg Convention Center rather than the downtown VCVB building on Washington Street, which remains without power after a nearby building collapsed Wednesday.

Thursday, members voted 6-5 to uphold the board’s earlier vote to enter into a contract with Iowa-based management firm Compass Facility Management as its executive director despite an earlier opinion from the attorney general’s office that said the pact may violate state law. The board approved a two-year deal with the company, which heads the Vicksburg Convention Center and Vicksburg Auditorium, following a 45-day exploratory period, moved the start date of the contract back a week to March 9 and added an option for a third year. It also voted along the same lines to renew a 90-day office space lease for Alliance, which shares the downtown VCVB building, and to defeat a motion to name Stamps its executive director.

The attorney general’s opinion, issued last week at the request of state Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, is non-binding, and some members of the board expressed disagreement with its conclusion that the VCVB must hire an &#8220actual person,” and not an entity such as Compass, as its executive director.

Flaggs said after Thursday’s meeting he would introduce legislation proposing a hike in the tax that funds the VCVB, which if passed would raise surcharges on hotel rooms and restaurant and bar tabs in the city from one to two percent. Earlier, the board had voted 10-1 in favor, with Bobbie Morrow dissenting.

He said he would also attempt to change the wording in the 1972 state law that created the VCVB, which says the board &#8220may” hire an executive director, to instead state that it &#8220shall” hire an executive director.

Flaggs attended Friday’s meeting but left without comment after the board adjourned without discussing Compass or the executive director position.

Based on the attorney general’s opinion, Thursday’s narrow vote to uphold the contract with Compass could be challenged in court, but there are no plans to pursue a lawsuit yet, said Morrow, who voted against hiring Compass and said the contract should be declared null and void.

&#8220Right now I’m not seeking a legal challenge but I am asking questions,” said Morrow, who was asked to resign Thursday by Mayor Laurence Leyens for questioning the process the board used to hire Compass instead of an individual or a Mississippi firm. &#8220Why support Compass? No contractor supervises government employees. In essence what they’re doing is privatizing this bureau.”