By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – The Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau/tourism council has undergone major changes since the start of fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, 2012.
After three months working with a budget reduced by about 40 percent, the agency’s board of directors – who are appointed by Alcorn County supervisors and Corinth aldermen – were given a vote of no confidence from the two governmental bodies for making decisions about how to allocate the reduced budget rather than following a line item budget set by the two government groups.
The boards of supervisors and aldermen then appointed five new members to the tourism council while retaining two former members of the seven-member board: Luke Doehner, who had begun his second term, will serve a two-year term; Pauline Sorrell, who was newly-appointed in October, will serve a one-year term; Billy Taylor, a one-year term; Danny Timmons, a two-year term; Russell Smith, a three-year term; Laura Albright, a three-year term; and Sandy Mitchell, a three-year term.
Since January the new board has met three times and members are still becoming acclimated to their duties and the tourism law.
With the resignation of the former executive director, the board is interviewing candidates for a replacement, and lastweek narrowed the field of 31 applicants to six for a first interview. The group will be further narrowed for a final interview with the entire tourism coouncil.
About five years ago the tourism council formed three committees using community volunteers to develop new tourism attractions in Corinth.
Among the projects developed by these committees are two highly successful events – the Crossroads Festival and Chili Cookoff, and the Green Market at the Corinth Depot, which kicks off in April in conjunction with the chili cookoff, then is held the second Saturday of each month May through October.
As a move toward returning to its core purpose of promotions, marketing and capital improvements, the board voted in January to separate the tourism council from these events. Partners eager to take over both projects as their own primary fundraisers are the Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter, which will assume responsibility for the chili cookoff, and the Crossroads Museum, which is taking over the green market.
The CVB/tourism council voted recently to transfer the two events, and will provide funding support this year to get the transition under way.
Two other significant events which the CVB/tourism council has traditionally funded, and which were written into the line item budget by the supervisors and aldermen, are the Battle of Farmington re-enactment, planned this year for Oct. 10-13, and the Grand Illumination, held the first Saturday in November in conjunction with the National Park Service. Plans so far for the 2013 Grand Illumination have not been set.
The last piece of the CVB/tourism council budgetary puzzle that remains in flux is funding for the county-city jointly owned Crossroads Arena. Tourism and the arena each receive half of the 2 percent tourism tax, with the arena portion designated for retiring the debt on the building or to pay for capital projects.
A central point of disagreement between the previous CVB/tourism council and Alcorn County and Corinth, was the county- city decision to designate $250,000 of tourism’s $583,000 projected FY 2013 revenue for the arena.
Since the law creating the tourism tax in Corinth requires expenditures from the CVB/tourism council go to marketing, promotion and capital projects, funds for which the agencies making the requests must apply case-by-case, the new board is grappling with how to assure those funds are made available to the arena, while also assuring that the funds are used properly.