Business community responds to town funding for events

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Last year the Greater Williamston Business Association (GWBA) sponsored two new events held in Mineral Spring Park, both of which got a great response. This year they want to expand the “Party in the Park” series and asked the town to help with funding.

At the Williamston Town Council meeting last week, the GWBA request failed with a split 2-2 vote. Council also declined to increase funding for the Spring Water Festival.

Since then GWBA President Chris Trotter has been on a campaign to make council aware that there is a lot of local support for the events.

Through an email campaign, GWBA members have been asked to provide letters of support to present to council members at their next meeting. The public is also being encouraged to show their support.

“The town of Williamston has so many assets including Mineral Spring Park, wonderful businesses, and most of all great people,” Trotter said. “It would be a terrible shame if events promoting town camaraderie are cancelled due to lack of support from town leaders.”

According to Trotter, the GWBA events directly impact tourism in the town of Williamston, drawing both local residents and residents from nearby towns. “Increased tourism from activities in the town will in turn directly impact local businesses in the form of increased sales and benefit the town by increased funds toward the hospitality tax,” he said. “In addition to the financial impact these events provide; local residents of the town of Williamston enjoy at no charge a concert, children’s entertainment and a DJ.”

“These events directly support the GWBA mission to help grow businesses in the town of Williamston and help the community enjoy a better quality of life,” Trotter said.

The request by the GWBA for $6500 for entertainment for the three Party in the Park events and the July 4th event failed by a split vote.

Mayor Mack Durham and Councilman Rockey Burgess were in favor, while Councilmen David Harvell and Otis Scott were opposed.

The possible tie breaker, Councilman Tony Hagood was absent. Harvell and Scott both questioned why the events could not fund themselves.

Earlier in the same meeting, the Springwater Committee requested $20,000 to provide entertainment for the two day festival and allow a nationally known entertainer as the headliner.

A motion by Councilman Scott to fund the request died after failing to receive a second.

Acting on a motion by Mayor Durham, council approved $10,000 in funding for the festival.

Spring Water Festival Chairman David Meade said, “The reasons given by the GWBA for the Party in the Park events are also applicable to supporting the one event which has promoted the town’s history and provided a fun, family oriented event for more than 30 years.”

“The funding provided by the town allows the committee to have exceptional musical and other entertainment during the two day festival and is greatly appreciated,” Meade said. “However, the name recognition and “buzz” created by a nationally known headliner would only add to the excitement of the festival as well as the recognition and reputation of the festival and the town.”

“Disappointingly, only one councilmember, Councilman Scott, was in support of this request for additional funding.”

Councilman Rockey Burgess later said he was not opposed to providing additional funding for the festival but would like to know who the committee is considering as the headlining entertainer before approving additional funds.

Regarding the GWBA request, Mayor Durham said, “Our administration is intent on supporting growth oriented activities and events to provide more activities within our town. As a group, council has been supportive of these type initiatives.”

“The business community has certainly voiced strong support for the Party in the Park series of events over the summer.”

“Because of our local business response to this issue, we will be re-considering this at our next council meeting. Local businesses have been involved in or supported several events historically. The new addition of the Party in the Park music series adds the type of local interest and community participation that we are working to develop locally.”

The next meeting of Williamston Town Council is Monday, May 5 at 6 p.m.