Editor's Note: The following story is based on a recording by Somervell Salon. The Reporter could not be at the meeting that night because the newspaper was in production.
The Glen Rose Economic Development Corporation on Tuesday night approved a request for a $36,000 grant to fund an events coordinator position for the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce.
Mike Dooley, facilities director of the Somervell County Expo and a chamber board member, made the request to the corporation, which oversees the dispersal of 4b sales tax money used to fund economic development, infrastructure and other city projects.
Dooley noted that the chamber has been "fairly successful" in sponsoring events such as recent Moonshine Festival and First Saturday Market Days on the square. But he added that it's "very difficult to do that" along with taking care of other business at the chamber. Having one person in charge of attracting and coordinating festivals and events would benefit downtown and other city merchants, as well as tourism at large, he added.
The chamber also is interested in attracting softball and baseball tournaments to Beck Field.
The events coordinator would report to the chamber's chief executive, who then reports to the chamber board of directors and would work with the chamber's office manager.
"We think we can be more efficient that way," Dooley told the GREDC board members.
Some GREDC members questioned whether there would be much overlap between the proposed chamber position and the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau's director, Billy Huckaby.
Reached for comment on Wednesday, Huckaby said a lot will depend on the events coordinators' final job description and duties. But he said that there is so much to do in attracting festivals and events to Glen Rose that such a position could help.
Several GREDC members also said they wanted to see some measures of accomplishment incorporated into the job description and would like the coordinator to make regular reports.
“I would like to see some numbers showing the impact," GREDC board member Mitchell George said. "There's got to be a rationale behind what they're doing and what they're bringing to the city."
Sandra Ramsay added that "there needs to be some accountability" incorporated in the job description. GREDC member Sue Oldenburg told Dooley she would like to see the detailed job description for the position.
Using 4b money to fund a position at the private chamber of commerce stirred some questions and opposition at a previous GREDC board meeting since its head, Darrell Best, also is the chamber's chairman and made the request for the 4b funding. His term as chamber chair ends on Jan. 1.
The chamber's previous executive director, Don Lanham, left recently and not been replaced.
As people come on and off the chamber board, an events coordinator would provide continuity and be an important liaison with businesses and organizations, Dooley said.
The chamber is "starting a new membership drive, we had a personnel change, we're starting out fresh," Dooley said. A new events coordinator would let merchants see there is someone out there pushing for businesses, he added.
Ramsay noted that the chamber "stepped on some toes" with the Glen Rose Downtown Association and needed to do a better job of working with others.
Downtown merchant Audrey Caylor, owner of Caylor Creek and the new boutique in the former Palace Theater, spoke on behalf of creating an events coordinator position. She pointed out that she and other merchants have spent their time and own money to put on events in the past. Now some of them don't have the time or the funds with the down economy. So some events don't get done anymore.
"If we had someone soley responsible, we could do a better job, find bigger sponsors and bring more and more people to Glen Rose," she said.
The Glen Rose City Council would have to approve the position and grant amount before the search could begin for an events coordinator.
In other GREDC business, Best said he met with the outside auditor the corporation has hired to give it an objective accounting of its financial condition. The auditor is scheduled to make a presentation to the GREDC at its Dec. 6 meeting and also will make recommendations on policies and procedures, Best said.
GREDC board member Ken Prikryl also provided an update on his work to explore options for building a pedestrian bridge across the Paluxy River to connect downtown with Heritage Park and the Riverwalk. He said he had "extended conversations" with three bridge builders who proposed building a bridge with short spans that would be less expensive than a single-span bridge.
Prikryl also noted that the civil engineering firm Freese & Nichols, which did the work on the wier at Big Rocks Park, estimated its fee to perform engineering work for a pedestrian bridge at $118,000 — which he termed "shocking" for its large price tag and lack of options.
Freese & Nichols has estimated the total cost of building a bridge at $600,000 to $800,000, but bridge builders have estimated costs at about $400,000.
Because building a pedestrian bridge would require sinking piers into the riverbed, there also would need to be a study of how the piers affect water flow. Then it would have to go before the state and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to make a determination, Prikryl reported.
He said he would like to get more information from other engineering firms.
"There are a lot of other options to investigate," he said.