Milissa Holland doesn’t like to be deceived. Nor do other members of the Tourist Development Council, who, in a surprisingly close, 4-3 vote this morning, rejected an application for $10,000 from promoter Dean Reinke to underwrite a second half-marathon in Palm Coast next January. Reinke applied for the money last year and was rejected for the same reason: an application with more holes than answers. Reinke’s marathon series, now in its third year and with 22 events behind it, has been bedeviled with conflict with local governments and organizations at about a third of those venues.
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An organization must go through an extensive application process to get money from the council. The money is awarded when the organization can prove that it will bring a certain number of hotel bookings, which in turn generate the bed tax that funds the council. More hotel bookings means more people in the county spending money in local businesses. Reinke’s application, with his signature, claimed he’d “blocked” 160 rooms at nine area hotels and motels. He hadn’t. Holland at one point went through the list, venue by venue, exposing the deception: council staff had verified whether the hotels had, in fact, been contacted, as claimed by the application. They hadn’t.
“When you submit an application to a governmental body and within that application you state claimed number of rooms, 50 at the Hilton Garden Inn, and there’s been no contact,” Holland said. “You claim number of rooms, for blocked rooms, at the Hampton Inn, 40. There’s been no contact. Claimed number of rooms at Cinnamon Beach, 50. No contact. White Orchid, 20 rooms confirmed. They don’t have 20 rooms. They have 10 rooms. The Barracuda Bay A1A Hotel. You have claimed number of rooms, 10, only eight available, and again no contact.” And on it went. “I have a real problem with that.”
Holland wasn’t talking to Reinke. As was the case last year, Reinke wasn’t there on two separate occasions, even after the council had requested that he be there in person. This time, he sent Todd Lytle, the Reinke Sports Group’s sales manager, who, perhaps not expecting that the application’s claims would be verified, was flustered at first by Holland’s run-down, saying, “we were as honest as we could possibly be with this.”
“We had to come up with 200 rooms that, you know, when it says, for example, i.e., 36 rooms at the Hilton, gee, I’m, like, how do I get 200 rooms? I don’t even know where 200 rooms are. So I looked online where the hotels were in proximity to the beach, to our area,” Lytle explained, “so I just went through, basically, not the yellow pages, but just went through the area and said, hey, where in Flagler County, cause somebody might go down the road into Volusia County. That’s not going to help us at all, so they have to be in Flagler County. These are hotels in Flagler County.”
“Well, you’d have to do that anyway,” Holland said,
Every member of the council was supportive of the half-marathon as an event.
“We went through this the last year, 2011, we went through it twice with documents that Reinke has submitted to us,” council member Mary DiStefano, who represents Palm Coast, said. “I have a real concern, and my concern is, you were given the application in 11, you were given it for this meeting today, and it is your responsibility to tell us what rooms you’ve booked. It is not our responsibility. And if this piece of the application is incorrect, which is critical, I have to question the rest of the document and what’s correct and what’s not correct. So I have a problem with your application.”
“I don’t like at all when information is put in there that seems false to me,” council member Pam Walker said. She nevertheless made a motion to award $2,500 as seed money to the event, to show the council’s support for the idea behind it, but with the proviso that Reinke provides correct, provable information in subsequent years. The motion died for lack of second.
Holland stressed that the Reinke group was “aware that the application was not accurate,” that it was not a miscommunication issue.
Council member Bob DeVore motioned to approve the full $10,000, on the presumption that “miscommunication” could explain the Reinke group’s flawed application. The motion was rejected with a 4-3 vote.
The half-marathon was not contingent on the council’s award: it was held last year without it, though Lytle claims the group lost $6,000 on the event. Registrations are being taken for the 2012 run, scheduled for Jan. 15, charging $60 for half-marathon entrants, $25 for the 5K run and $10 for the “fun run.”
In contrast with Reinke’s troubled appearance before the council, the Flagler Auditorium got its request for $10,000 approved in less than a minute. Earlier this year the auditorium ran into trouble with the council over its own application process and lost $15,000 in potential subsidies. It began reversing its fortunes by making back $5,000 in March, and $10,000, for the coming season.
DiStefano last March had invited Richard Hamilton, who chairs the auditorium board, to make further grant requests. And when Hamilton approached the dais this morning to make his presentation, DiStefano stopped him to say that the application was ample, and the request could be approved without a presentation. It was so approved, unanimously.
Thank you again FlaglerLive for this exceptional and revealing reporting to our community about our local government agencies like TDC activities regarding grants funded by “our taxes”.
Last Half Marathon held in our former beloved Palm Coast Resort location, I believe was last January was a total success with over 400 participants with some bringing their families and friends Competitors I spoke with, were many from outside the county and were admiring our city and surrounding areas as told me, being their first time around. Some even said Jeez… we didn’t know Palm Coast is so beautiful! Among the multitude I didn’t see one city councilmen or county commissioners please forgive me if I just missed you in the big crowd. Though I saw our competitive and usually friendly Property Appraiser Jim Gardner as well as our athletic Landscape Engineer Bill Butler among the contestants. This Half Marathon Event was something to see, where some of our athletic neighbors competed and won prices as well in spite of the very cold, January day I think it was. Our dedicated City of Palm Coast event coordinator Lisa Gardner properly bundled up, was busy greeting and shaking hands and helping in all she could making sure that success will prevail.
This event really speaks well for the good intentions of our community geared to healthy sports practices. Hope more events like this that seem to be the expertise of our City Event Plenty of free water and juice drinks as well as warm pizza’s many ordered locally and snacks were provided. Hope more events like this that seem to be the expertise of our City Event Coordinator Mrs Lisa Gardner will take place. Thank you Lisa!
I agree with TDC, though as usual kind of difficult to achieve, that any event to be awarded grants should bring hotel occupancy as the hospitality business generates the 4% bed tax that funds TDC. Now this policy to approve grants should be enforced across the board, fair? If so, can TDC Board and County Commission Chairwoman Milissa Holland inform our community how many hotel beds the Flagler Parent Magazine sells from their publication? What are the TDC conditions and benefits received or grants monies given to this non tourist local private for profit enterprise, that even have advertisement in the TDC web site of their add rates? Do they pay for that? Is the Volusia County resident and Flagler TDC VP Mrs Peggy Heiser listed as a contributing writer of this magazine in a pro bono basis or she gets compensated also for that? The community has to be supplied this information for the sake of transparency. As transparency is requested for any other grant solicitor including Reinke.
Going back to Mr Reinke Half Marathon application for $10,000 grant to additionally fund the next January event. He needs transparency to start with and I doubt his alleged loss of $6,000 in the last event, as if so, he would not be back now. Is difficult to generate hotel occupancy when we are talking of a one day event in this bad economy. People may use our restaurants and only the ones residing at great distance, the fewer, will overnight in a hotel.
When we have The Golf Tournaments inside the Ginn Resort that mostly sold the rooms inside it as well meals and all, not really utilizing those many rooms in other hotels around, the tune of the TDC grants started at over 70,000 and I recall even 150,000 at a given time? Please correct me if wrong.
This event is very very important for our community. Promotes physical fitness and good health as well the exposure given to the beautiful Palm Coast area and its amenities. Mr. Reinke probably spends advertising thru his sports connections for the event to draw 400 hundred plus paying participants and when he does, he promotes this county as well. I would say would be fair that should be allowed to show TDC some hotel occupancy, if any, after this coming event is held, by properly documenting any reservations sold. I believe that TDC should support this event by approving the grant as properly proposed by Board Member DeVore and reconsider. Even if not the full 10,000 maybe somewhat less. But the support should be there. I sure remember when the former TDC Board Member Mr.Siebel owner of the Thunder Gulch campground was awarded 68,000 grant for a weekend event in his place few years ago. Lets play fair! TDC Board needs to show support for a physical fitness event as well as support for this original good idea of the City Event Coordinator Mrs Gardner . Not all should be only for TDC VP Heiser with over $670,000 budget grants approved. By the way we should appreciate Bob DeVore for the good try and ask the rest of TDC Board Members, specially commissioner Milissa Holland and City of Palm Coast Mary Distefano to reconsider.
I guess members of the Tourist Development Council don’t know about the recent changes to Flagler Beach’s short term rental ordinance – the one that permits homeowners to rent private homes (or even just rooms) in residential neighborhoods short term. There was so much talk about what was meant by short term that I don’t remember if, in the end, renting rooms by the hour was permitted or not.
Holland should contact Mealy and Feind for all the inside dope on how they shot the legs out from under FB motel owners by relentlessly pressing this change for many months in the face of tax payer opposition . There’s no end to the mischief done by those two and other commissioners now thankfully gone.
Short term rental owners are savvy promoters who list their properties on the internet and because, unlike legitimate motels, there is no oversight, there’s no limit to the number of vacationers/tourists who can be stuffed into small spaces and who can make all the noise they want, park anywhere they like and leave behind a messy pile of garbage for the rest of us taxpayers to pay to have hauled away.