The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to delay replacing its appointments to the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors until it meets with city representatives.
District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson moved the board appoint a committee to meet with representatives from the Columbus City Council and the CVB to discuss the county”s role in managing the CVB. The motion passed 3-2.
Confusion over the county”s role arose after District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders was met with opposition from the board in November over replacing county appointees to the CVB board whose terms had expired, leading to questions over the county”s authority.
Columbus City Attorney Jeff Turnage, who has researched the issue for the city, found no interlocal agreement between the city and the county agreeing to co-manage the CVB. However, the ordinance passed by the city in 1986, when the CVB was created with a 2 percent tax on restaurants, splits power equally between the city and county.
Sanders and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks argued Monday over the necessity of the county officially accepting the terms of the city”s ordinance.
When Ferguson moved to appoint a committee to meet with the city, Sanders made a substitution motion to appoint two members to the board whose terms had expired. Sanders” motion failed 2-3 with District 3 Supervisor John Holliman voting with Sanders. Ferguson”s motion passed 3-2 with Holliman again voting with Sanders and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith and Brooks voting with Ferguson.
Sanders claimed the county should appoint the CVB board members now rather than waiting an indefinite amount of time, during which a new city ordinance may be drafted. Smith replied that county board appointees have remained beyond their terms during similar situations in the past.
Ferguson then moved to appoint Board Attorney Tim Hudson and County Administrator Ralph Billingsley as the county”s committee to “remove politics” from any meeting with the city and the CVB.
He also recommended the city appoint a similar committee composed of Turnage and City Administrator David Armstrong and that the CVB appoint two non-board members as representatives.
When Ferguson”s second motion passed, Sanders stated he believed the CVB has “lost their mission.”
Sanders later moved to appoint Bart Wise, president of Trustmark bank, to the CVB board as the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link”s representative, but that motion was defeated.
The discussion ended with Sanders asking Hudson to seek an opinion from the attorney general regarding the necessity of an interlocal agreement between the city and the county with regard to the CVB.
The supervisors also voted Monday to approve Conn Construction”s bid for the Lowndes County Courthouse renovation project.
Conn, of Columbus, turned in the low bid at $868,000, but the board opted to add six alternate projects to the main project, which brought the total to about $1.09 million. The alternates include adding new columns to the front of the building, repairing retaining walls and painting the courthouse”s exterior.
The board had originally budgeted $1 million for the project.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.