Commission divided on marketing plan

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A budget meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 27

By Stephen Lega

After more than 90 minutes of discussion, a divided Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission approved its marketing plan for May and June during a special-called meeting May 18.

Commission Chairwoman Carlotta Brussell explained that the special-called meeting was necessary since the commission had not approved a marketing plan during its regular meeting on May 9.

And the marketing discussion may continue when the commission has a special-called meeting at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Centre Square about the budget and planning for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Commissioner Dan Lawson was not at the May 18 meeting, and Commissioners Nancy Higdon and Dennis George had to leave before the end of the meeting due to other commitments. When the commission voted on the marketing plan, it was approved 3-1, with Brussell, Brad Lanham and Dave Winebrenner voting in favor of the plan. Commissioner Tom Lund was opposed.

Brussell said early in the May 18 meeting that some of the May marketing plan had already been implemented. She said she had personally authorized Executive Director Chris Hamilton to place ads for the Heart of Kentucky Bourbon and BBQ Musicfest (which was held this past weekend).

"I thought it was critical that we do this," Brussell said. "I knew that we were behind the eight-ball."

Winebrenner pointed out that the commission spent $4,200 to advertise the barbeque festival.

"This is a lot of money for one event," he said.

George had some general concerns about where ads were being placed. For example, he questioned whether it would be more effective to advertise in the Courier-Journal and the Herald-Leader rather than running ads in smaller newspapers. He questioned how many people had come to events in Lebanon because of an ad in The Corbin Times. George also said he would like to see what the print ads looked like before they run.

Hamilton explained that the ads in the smaller papers were placed through the Kentucky Press Service (which runs ads in several smaller community newspaper). He compared running the ads in multiple papers to a bulk purchase while purchasing ads in specified papers would be like buying items off the rack. Hamilton also said the commission hasn't received much of a response from previous ads in the Courier-Journal.

Also during the meeting, Winebrenner expressed a concern for how time-consuming the marketing process appears to have become since the commission presented a new plan to the city council. He reminded the commission that it must finish the work at the Gorley Trail soon or the commission could risk losing the grant it received for that project.

The Cecil B. Gorley Naturalist Trail is located around Fagan Branch Reservoir. The commission received a $100,000 grant to make improvements to the trail. The City of Lebanon provided an in-kind match by providing property adjacent to the reservoir for the development of additional trails.

The contract for the grant was signed in 2008, Hamilton explained in an email. The commission provided the $100,000 upfront, and it has been reimbursed for $75,000 so far. The remaining $25,000 will not be reimbursed until all the work is completed, and the grant contract expires June 30.

Hamilton said the 2009 ice storm was a big setback to the work done at the trail. After speaking with the commission's partners at Marion Adjustment Center and city officials, he is more comfortable that the commission will be able to meet the deadline if the weather cooperates and materials arrive in a timely manner.