Switzer asks council for over $70K

BLYTHEWOOD – Mike Switzer, Executive Director of both the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce and Blythewood Visitor Center, requested $70,750 from the town government on behalf of both of the organizations during Monday night’s Blythewood Town Council meeting. But all of Switzer’s wishes did not come true. Council basically ignored $12,000 of that amount that represented an increase in what the Town already gives the Chamber each year, and it said ‘No,’ outright to a request for $33,000 from the Town’s Accommodation Tax funds..

Switzer, along with Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Belinda Portnall, first requested a $25,000 Economic Development Grant, a significant increase over the $12,500 that Council allocated the Chamber last year. Switzer told Council the $25,000 would represent nearly a quarter of the Chamber’s total budget which is almost $100,000.

Funding, Switzer said, would go towards renovations for the new office in McNulty Shopping Plaza, as well as for rent, which the Chamber has not had to pay during the last year.

“The increase that we’re asking for this year is to cover our startup costs which were significant, about $7,000 in renovations,” Switzer said. “Our increase this year is representing that amount that we’ve had to spend out of our reserve as well as the fact that we now have rent which we didn’t have before.”

Councilman Tom Utroska felt he needed more time and wanted to see the Chamber’s budget and go over the financial information before making his decision.

“We’ve been approached about this year after year, Mike, for additional funds for the chamber and we’ve increased it since I’ve been on the council. I’d like to see what your budget is so I can understand where this money’s being spent,” Ustroka said.

No action was taken, and the council moved on.

When Council considered the recommendations from the A-Tax committee later in the meeting for dollar awards for events, Switzer requested $4,000 for a Total Solar Eclipse event the Chamber is organizing on August, 21. Half of the funds will go to advertising, including 5,000 bags emblazoned with the Blythewood logo and special eclipse viewing glasses and brochures, while the other 50 percent of funds will go into additional marketing items such as social media campaigns, Switzer said.

The motion to grant the $4,000 for the Total Solar Eclipse event passed unopposed.

Next, the Chamber requested $8,750 in A-TAX assistance to fund this year’s Big Grab event, including rental of Doko Park, advertising, temporary restrooms, Sheriff Deputies, staff and supplies.

“The Big Grab is pretty well attended. Last year we funded it per his request $5,000. This year he’s asking for more,” the Director of Doko Manor Steve Hasterok said. “Some more sophisticated marketing and also to pay for the rental on the park for a little bit on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So there is an increase but some of that money will come back to the town.”

The motion passed 4-1, with Utroska being the only nay vote.

Acting as the director of the Blythewood Visitor Center, Switzer asked for $33,000 from the A-Tax funds. That represents a $15,000 increase from the $18,000 that was allocated for the Visitor’s Center in the past.

“So as a percentage of what we’re asking for as an investment into the interests of the town’s business community is 10 percent of just the annual revenues that comes in the H- and A-Tax,” Switzer said.

“We did present our ideas (for the $33,000) to the A-Tax Committee and they were thrilled! It was an overwhelming response from them that we utilize our services in this regard which in turn is going to help those businesses through the Visitors’ Center,” Portnall told Council.

Switzer asked for $9,000 upfront, and said the Visitor’s Center would be happy to bill the Town for the remaining $24,000. The $9,000 would go towards start-up costs for a $5,000 website, a $750 computer and the remaining $3,250 would cover renovation costs.

Switzer said the additional $24,000 would go to hiring a new employee for the Visitor’s Center.

“I don’t feel comfortable with it this evening to take into account all the information that you’ve given us and the impacts on the website we are planning on rolling out ourselves,” Gordge said, “There are just a lot of issues that I think we need more time to discuss and understand.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Utroska made his concerns clear.

“I cannot agree to this proposal. I have quite a few concerns. One is that we’re going to spend $5,000 on web-hosting when we got a brand new town website that we say is great, and you (Hasterock) have a good website (for The Manor), so now we’re going to have three websites that are doing basically the same thing,” Utroska said. “And I think the numbers for your quarter-share is way out of line. Being a businessman I would never have agreed to a joint-venture with somebody else for 25 percent. It’s just goofy to me.”

Councilman Larry Griffin then made a motion to table the proposal until the next Council meeting, but the vote was deadlocked at 2-2 with Griffin and Gordge voting to table it, while Utroska and Baughman voted against. The motion failed.

Then, Utroska made the motion to not approve the item at all. The vote passed 3-1 with only Larry Griffin voted against.


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