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City Council approves DDA contracts

 

ELIZABETH HEFFNER

Staff Writer

 

Lincolnton City Council members debated several contracts with the Downtown Development Association at their meeting Thursday night.

DDA Board Chair Brooke Sherrill asked council members to consider at contract between the city and the DDA for the 2014 Alive After Five Concert series. The event consists of five downtown music events held on the last Thursday of the month between May and September.

City Council member Larry Mac Hovis strongly opposed continuing the sales of wine and beer at the events.

“Basically, the event would not be nearly as successful without being able to have alcohol sales, whether anyone wants to accept that fact or not,” Sherrill said. “It’s an option that brings people in, and it mimics any other city that has an Alive After Five event. You don’t really see one that doesn’t have alcohol sales.”

“It ain’t about the entertainment; it’s just about the money,” Hovis said. “You can make money selling hot dogs and barbeque and make it a family-oriented event.”

Sherrill responded by saying the presence of alcohol did not imply that it was not a family friendly event.

“I would dare say that anybody in this room would not let their kids be around a wine or beer event,” Hovis said.

He continued by commenting on the addictiveness of alcohol and encouraged the DDA to host the concert series as an alcohol-free event this year.

“We’re going to end up like Bourbon Street, otherwise,”Hovis said.

City Council member Martin Eaddy then shared his perspective on the subject, and said their decision needed to reflect the people of Lincolnton.

“We have to make sure our personal beliefs don’t overshadow our decision,” Eaddy said. “I’ve been to similar festivals in Texas and Illinois, and the ability to have a beer is normal.”

“Our people didn’t vote to have a beer party on Main Street,” Hovis countered. “I believe city and state leaders should not be endorsing immoral actions.”

The motion to approve the Alive After Five contract carried 3-1, with Hovis in opposition.

The 2014 Hog Happenin’ event was also a hot topic of discussion. Sherrill began by addressing several changes the DDA planned to implement for the two-day festival.

“This year, we will be adding a scavenger hunt to take place before Hog Happenin’,” Sherrill said. “At the event, we will present a $1,000 cash prize to the winning team.”

The scavenger hunt is open to local businesses as well as businesses in the surrounding area.

“The scavenger hunt starts inside the city and goes to Shelby, Cherryville and Bessemer City,” Sherrill said.

Businesses will be required to pay a $50 entry fee to participate. Sherrill said the DDA hopes to have 100 to 200 businesses participating. Currently, 41 businesses have expressed interest in participating and supporting Hog Happenin’.

The DDA is also requesting an extension of the beer garden to incorporate a National Qualifying Corn Hole Tournament. Sherrill said the association believes the tournament will encourage a larger sector of the public to attend.

Mayor John Gilleland stated that he believed Hog Happenin’ was heading in the right direction.

“I’d like to see what you can do to grow the barbeque vendors,” Gilleland said. “It’s a very interesting piece of the event that is often forgotten.”

After hearing multiple safety concerns regarding last year’s stunt bike performance, Sherrill said the association decided to do away with that portion of the entertainment.

Gilleland expressed his relief and approved of this decision, stating the stunt bike activity was an accident waiting to happen.

Council members unanimously agreed to approve the contract between the city and the Downtown Development Association.

For the past few months, the City Council has invited a city department to come and give a brief presentation on their role and responsibilities. This month, Business and Community Development Director Brad Guth discussed the department’s top 10 most frequently asked questions. Some dealt with clarification of the purpose of the Business and Community Development Department, while others discussed concerns about East Main Street’s appeal to attract new businesses and visitors. In his presentation, Guth explained that there has been a common misconception regarding the Downtown Development Authority and his department. According to Guth, the Downtown Development Association is a private, non-profit organization, similar to the Culture Center or the Lincoln Economic Development Association. The Business and Community Development Department, however, is a department of the city.

Another misconception Guth said he often addresses is the number of downtown buildings that are occupied.

“I often get questions about why our downtown has so many vacant buildings,” he said. “The truth is, we currently have a 90 percent occupancy in our downtown buildings. One reason the perception is like this is because 60 percent of the buildings are used for office space.”

City Council members will meet this weekend for their annual Budget Retreat. Their next scheduled public meeting will be held on April 3 at 7 p.m.

 

 

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