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Despite Successes, Flagler Auditorium Loses Out on at Least $15,000 in Tourism Funding

| February 21, 2011

The auditorium presents some 150 shows a year, 20 of them professional. (© FlaglerLive)

Last summer it was a matter of logos and other wording the Flagler Auditorium did not include in its advertising, and application requirements it did not follow. Last month it was an application deadline. The two mistakes cost the auditorium $20,000 in subsidies from the Tourist Development Council, though the auditorium is hoping to salvage $5,000 through another request to cover advertising for the rest of this season. That’s not likely to be successful, given the calendar’s deadlines.

The council didn’t want to turn down the auditorium. None of its members is opposed to funding it. But those same members worked hard to strengthen their grant application process to ensure fairness and accountability. “There was a tremendous amount of time put into trying to look at different ways to get the policy met,” Milissa Holland, who chairs the council, said this week, including meetings and emails. Guidelines were still not followed.

“This hit is probably going to hit me for two years in a row,” Lisa McDevitt, the auditorium director, said. “It’s nobody’s fault but mine, but being one person, trying to do everything, you can only do so much.”

McDevitt appeared before the council last week to ask for some concessions on the lost funding. Can we possibly look at maybe giving us those television dollars or reconsidering the rules for that?” she asked.

The council didn’t go for it, having by then been privy to the efforts behind the scene to get matters worked out. “It is written it is signed, it is a contract between us, and if we make exceptions right now, that’s a precedent I don’t think we event want to go,” council member Linda Mitchell said.

“The auditorium is a key component in our community and we need it to be successful, so in the future we need to work closely so we don’t have this snafu again,” Bob DeVore, another council member, said, “because I plan to continue to support it and we should continue to support it. Hopefully we’ll work it out. We’ve got new rules, but rules are rules, unfortunately.”

The auditorium has a $70,000 marketing budget out of a total budget of more than half a million dollars. It applied for, and was granted, $10,000 last year. The money was to be reimbursed last fall. It wasn’t, because the Tourist Development Council’s logo did not appear on a television commercial the auditorium cut. The logo appears on virtually every other piece of marketing the auditorium produces. That didn’t matter. A 15 percent hit on the auditorium’s marketing budget is a serious loss, though it coincides with a season that has seen three shows sold out, and out-of-county ticket-buyers increase from 31 percent last year to 38 percent this year, just five months into the season. For all that, the council is not bending.

“In your guidelines it does specifically say print and digital, TV radio, digital, same thing,” Peggy Heiser, the council’s lead administrator, said. “Could we be a little clearer, maybe that’s a conversation the council needs to have about that, but the reasoning for that is so that we can push them to our web site and order a free vacation guide. The council is interested in driving overnight stays. Of course her focus is to get them into the auditorium,” Heiser said, referring to McDevitt, “so the money that she’s utilizing to advertise the auditorium, to request that we are recognizing that and our initiative is to drive overnight stays to drive them to our website, in my opinion is not too much.”

The application for another $10,000 grant is due in late March. But the deadline for a required meeting with Heiser to qualify for the grant fell on the same day that the first of two shows by the Ten Tenors at the auditorium was postponed because of severe weather and a leak on the auditorium stage. Richard Hamilton, president of the auditorium’s board of directors, says he had a meeting with Heiser previously, which should count as fulfilling the requirement.

“Richard had met with me,” Heiser said, “but it was not to discuss reapplying for a grant.”

Hamilton will go before the council to ask for the money in spring. “It’s too early to say it’s lost,” Hamilton said.

But a look at the calendar and the council’s rules, it means that as far as the current year is concerned, the money is lost. The auditorium may not apply for a grant to cover advertising already produced. So it cannot retroactively apply new money to this season’s marketing. To qualify for a grant in the council’s next cycle, the auditorium would have to meet with Heiser by April 29. The application would have to be filed by June 29, It would go before the council on July 20. It would have to win approval from the County Commission, likely in early September. By then the auditorium would be heading into its next season.

“The auditorium is going to continue to do its mission, it’s going to continue to target people out of county to get into Flagler County, it’s going to continue to put heads in beds” and celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, McDevitt said. (The auditorium opened its doors on Nov. 2, 1991.) “The bottom line is we want to be their partners. It was a lesson learned.”

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4 Responses for “Despite Successes, Flagler Auditorium Loses Out on at Least $15,000 in Tourism Funding”

  1. Donna De Poalo says:

    Sounds like they need a grant writer.

  2. palm coaster says:

    Maybe could be by “shear concidence” that the forgotten logos and TDC contract of words requirement for a TDC grant approval, that is a must in all media advertisement of any entity applying to TDC, were forgotten also because all that media advertisement was outsourced out of this county and or Florida, as usually is?
    If the given media advertisement were sent to bid to our local Flagler County suppliers would have been for sure a suggestion about ” are you forgetting the TDC logo and any other written pharagrah with slogan/motto required by TDC contract, etc. while reading to produce last summers media? Sure a local county supplier totally familiar with its government policies would have never forgotten that vital detail.
    Should take the example of he Flagler County Chamber “when outsources its media” is very careful not to forget those details.

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    BTW – what’s the director’s salary?

  4. palm coaster says:

    I hit the nail right in the head while referring to outsourcing of the Auditorium media…I just learned that yes, was produced in New Jersey and sold by a local sales rep. out of her private residence. This entity as been widely promoted by the local Chamber of Uncommerce to the Flagler School District chief buyer Mr. Campanella that now utilizes our school tax payers funds to send contracts for this work to NJ. Now I think that Mr. Campanella is from NJ also …any connection there?… Nahh pure coincidence. Thousands of our school tax funds to create jobs in good old NJ. Excuse is as usual and a lie,… is cheaper (and I will add, faulty as missed TDC logos and motto). Further more whatever this school buying mogul does not outsource to NJ he outsource’s to the Florida Prison System workers, to improve their skills for their future release, that being another lie, as actually is done to fatten the wallets of the very profitable prison management corporations that runs it, as prisoners practically work at no pay. Hooray for the way our schools sends hundreds of thousands in our tax generated work, to create jobs elsewhere. Then all of those entities come back to us, the residents and small businesses, demanding more taxes “for economic development” flagging their buddies; Enterprise Hungry and Flagler Chamber of Outsourcing.
    Having these cheered local sales reps, working from their homes, not paying store front rent, no insurances, no taxes ..does a heck of good to demolish our local business development.
    Connection is that the Auditorium is a school dependent entity and Mr. Campanella outsourcing policies probably were on place at time of ordering the media. Am I right?
    Our county buyer is not exception to outsourcing our government contracts either. In a local suppliers/business and government meeting a while ago, called for our well intended then new, Barbara Revels Commissioner, we learned that the county buyer has in place an Internet corporation that charges a fee up front, to us local suppliers, to see the open bid jobs or to bid and if we win a bid…that so far never happened then, we have to pay a percentage fee to the “private online corporation” from the total of the bid awarded. Well, but this is in place to simplify the chief county buyer’s work…hello, smelled like a rat, to us small local business present there that openly complainned.
    For small local businesses additional help , we have our local Flagler County Chamber of Uncommerce, that also outsource their media and furthermore, compete with the local media suppliers members, after buying their own equipment with their members fees, to further profit and probably was a brainstorm of Chairman Baxter then.! Big fanfare to present back then, their new Jersey media member and its poised sales lady operating from… her house. Of course with such an sponsorship the school buyer gave in and claimed into the Chamber Chairman Baxter’s Superman cape to outsourcing..
    If we want to really create jobs; we taxpayers have to, again and again direct our elected officials to see the buying records funded with public monies…and ask serious questions.
    Why the IPhones, equipment, vehicles, utilities bills and the media inside, are purchased and serviced outside our county?… and be very very skeptical’s of lies that plague their reasons, as probably the real one is graft or just plain favoritism to their buddies, for something in exchange.
    We had in Palm Coast our first media company for many years, that a given time had ten or more employees and always rented large store fronts, paid insurance and taxes and thanks to all the above went under. Afterwards recently the oldest media producer of more than 25 years in the county also shut its doors. Few small ones left that used to have upwards of 8 employees each are down to two and someone knocks their doors daily asking for open positions to no avail. Upwards of 40 job positions have been lost just in the media field only, in this county and to all the reasons named above. Is not competition, is unfair competition and plain and simple outsourcing for graft. The above maybe for Councilman Mr. Meeker to read and get acquainted with, if sincerely wants to promote jobs in Palm Coast with no tax increments. he will have a heck of difficult work against the stiff opposition of special interest involved, just like we all found out. One added bonus that local small businesses enjoy, is the witch hunt to endure if they dare question the above policies in place and on the open. But that is one of the benefits we receive form our local Chamber of Uncommerce with the membership subscription.
    No one saves with outsourcing, after having to pay unemployment benefits to the jobless. Stop outsourcing, create jobs that generate more monies spend in our county and cities and increases the sales tax revenues that will benefit our government as well, other than making filthy richer the very few!

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