Duplin entering into new Events Center contract
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 20, 2010 1:46 PM
CHINQUAPIN -- Duplin County is drawing up a new management agreement with facility management company VenuWorks to oversee operations of the Duplin Events Center.
VenuWorks was put on notice by commissioners in 2008 after the center operated at a loss of more than $300,000 that year.
The county commissioners examined last summer the possibility of selecting a different management company to run the center. However, a November vote to continue the contract, which expires in June, resulted in a 3-3 tie.
County attorney Wendy Sivori has been working to include in the contract improvement suggestions from Evergreen consultant Dr. Linda Reccio, who was hired by Duplin County to complete an efficiency study of the county's operations. But some of the suggestions the consultant made are not translating well to actually being written into the contract, County Manager Mike Aldridge said.
Some questions the events center advisory board and the commissioners asked Ms. Reccio are still unanswered, and as far as the event center being profitable is concerned, "Just because she says it don't make it so," Aldridge said.
Article 3 of the management agreement provided to commissioners stated that VenuWorks must conduct a promotional campaign for the center every year, in accordance with a promotional plan that must be approved by the commissioners by June 1 each year. The promotional plan would be reviewed twice by the board every year.
Under the terms of the management agreement, the company would be required to clear any events of a "questionable character" with the commissioners before scheduling them, and must also prepare, develop and update an annual business plan and budget, which must submitted to the commissioners by April 1 of each year.
The county would pay VenuWorks $6,950 per month for managing the Duplin Events Center, beginning July 1 of this year, and the company would receive a 15 percent commission on naming, sponsorships, pour rights and advertising revenues received.
If the center is profitable -- if its revenues exceed its expenditures without any county contribution toward the center's operating budget -- the county will also pay VenuWorks a variable fee in addition to the base management fee.
The board did not take action on the agreement.
In other business, a county employee hiring proposal created discussion between board members regarding county staffing levels.
Aldridge requested that the board vote to hire a new carpenter for the maintenance department, but Commissioner David Fussell spoke against the move, citing economic conditions.
Duplin citizens are already struggling under the 69-cent county property tax rate, and commissioners will soon have to consider the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year, Fussell said.
"Our folks cannot afford the tax rate we're presently got," he said.
Other counties are cutting back, but Duplin County has been adamant against cutting money in the past, and that must change, Fussell said.
"It's time for this board to suck it up," he said.
While the position may need to be filled, it would be better to move an existing employee to fill it, Fussell said.
Aldridge said he did not think the county currently has an employee who would meet the requirements.
Chairman Cary Turned requested that Aldridge ask department heads to see if an existing county employee has the skills necessary to fill the position.
The commissioners also approved state funding for sewer projects in water districts D and E, and the use of North Carolina Education Lottery funding for an air conditioning replacement project at James Kenan High School.
Department heads will begin updating a capital needs list Feb. 1 in preparation for county budget discussions. The commissioners will attend budget work sessions on May 10, 11 and 13 and are scheduled to adopt the budget June 21 at the Lois G. Britt Auditorium.