Main Street may move under Chamber

COVINGTON -- Operations of Main Street Covington may be transferred to the Chamber of Commerce, and it looks like the city of Covington could become solely responsible for funding of the program.

City council members Monday night approved both measures, specifying that the city would become responsible for Main Street in exchange for the county taking full responsibility for Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful. Both programs are currently jointly funded by the city and the county.

The Main Street budget for fiscal year 2013 is $87,736.16, split evenly by the city and county. In addition, Main Street receives a portion of hotel/motel taxes.

According to the city of Covington, from July 1, 2012, through April 30 of this year, the most recent date for which data is available, Main Street has received $98,289.91 in hotel/motel tax.

KCNB's 2013 budget is $129,476. But the city and county do not evenly split that amount, said Steve Horton, administrative specialist providing assistance to the mayor. According to City Manager Leigh Anne Knight, the city has budgeted $35,000 for KCNB for fiscal year 2014.

The swap would mean the county will see a savings of about $8,000, according to Johnston.

Johnston said he wants a service agreement that specifically details the expectations of Main Street, the Chamber's Office of Economic Development and the tourism department.

The city and county also jointly fund the Office of Economic Development and tourism is funded through hotel/motel tax dollars. So far this year, the tourism department has received $221,230.35 in hotel/motel tax dollars.

Johnston said he believes all three entities working together to further economic development and tourism would be more efficient and give the city and county "more bang for our buck."

Johnston made a presentation to the Board of Commissioners Tuesday night. The board agreed to support the concept of the swap and moving operations to the Chamber and to having some members participate in a committee that will hash out the details of how that will work. It's Johnston's goal to have an agreement in place by July 5.

Johnston also wants to address in the agreement the current conflict of having the Main Street director report to both the city manager and the Main Street Board of Directors.

"To be honest with you I think it would be sad if we take a new Main Street director and put them in the exact same situation. I think we need to step back and look at this structure and look at what we're really trying to get and look at the results and make sure we can measure them from performance," Johnston told the City Council.

The Main Street director would no longer be a city employee, but would be hired by the Chamber, Johnston said.

Main Street Director Josephine Kelly resigned effective Friday. Johnston stressed that he made the suggestion to move Main Street under the Chamber three weeks ago, before Kelly resigned.

"This was not about Ms. Kelly, this was about the program as a whole," he said.

Johnston said it's his goal to include the Main Street board in the process.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I think the board is in complete agreement with everything I'm saying," he told the Board of Commissioners.