By Lindsey Temple
News Star Reporter
In a letters dated June 20, received the morning of June 25, the City of Pauls Valley pulled funding from both the Main Street Pauls Valley Organization and the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The letters, signed by City Manager James Frizell, explained the city’s plan to hire a Tourism Director and in order to meet the $30,000 a year salary obligation for the newly created position, the city must stop funding for both organizations, as of Sunday, July 1.
The combined funding totaled $19,333 – $13,333 for The Main Street program and $6,000 from the Chamber of Commerce.
The $13,333 accounts for 25.15 percent of Main Street’s annual budget and goes toward the general operation throughout the year, according to Samantha Robb, MSPV Director.
The issue to pull funding from these organizations was voted on in a budget meeting on the evening of Monday, June 25, by three of the five Pauls Valley City Council members and, according to Frizell, was discussed prior to Monday night in a meeting that took place on Tuesday, June 19.
MSPV Board members in attendance Monday night questioned the council as to why a letter was sent prior to a vote or final decision among the council members.
“It’s not making sense to me, why do you want to hire someone for a lot more money, to do what we already do,” asked Deanna Joy, MSPV President.
“We were told on June 19th and prior to that there would be no change in the budget regarding Main Street and that everything would stay the same,” added Joy.
City officials responded by saying this idea had been in the works for a few years.
Also in attendance was, Linda Barnett, Director of the State Main Street Organization. Barnett explained to the board the asset Main Street has brought to Pauls Valley.
“Through reinvesting in Main Street, Pauls Valley has gained $23 for every one dollar put into Main Street,” explained Barnett.
“We do require that each Main Street program receive some sort of support from their local government, whether it be, monetary or in-kind, however, Pauls Valley would be the only Main Street program in the state, not receiving monetary support,” added Barnett.
MSPV has existed since 1998 and has numerous volunteers, including local businesses, in the 14 years in existence; the program has never lost all of their funding from the city.
Within those 14 years some of Main Street’s accomplishments have been an 800 subscriber monthly newsletter, the beautification of the downtown area, participation in The Great American Clean-Up along with Fresh Paint Days, numerous festivals, such as Brickfest and Oklahoma Heritage Festival.
Both the Chamber of Commerce and The Main Street Program have served as representatives for Pauls Valley at festivals and events outside the Garvin County area.
Frizell addressed the crowd, explaining the city’s reasoning behind the action.
“We as a city government should be taking care of tourism; we need someone who works for us, a full time tourism director that works for us 24/7. In order to do that we cannot continue to give money to outside entities that we don’t have control over,” explained Frizell.
Frizell went on to say, “Main Street works for Main Street, they don’t work for us, we need someone working for us.”
“Our mission as the Main Street Organization is to bring people into town and to bring money to local businesses,” responded Barnett.
All three councilmen – Mayor Tim Gamble, Councilmen Billy Riddle and Gary Alfred – approved the measure. Council members Jocelyn Rushing and Hal Blevins were not in attendance.
“This notification is definitely a financial setback for Main Street Pauls Valley and a surprise to our program. While it is unfortunate to have lost the City’s financial support on such short notice, Main Street Pauls Valley remains committed to do all we can for our Historic Down Town Business District and we thank our members, volunteers and donors for their continued support,” said Robb.
“We love our community, we love the people, we love our merchants and we believe in Pauls Valley, we will keep working hard for this community and we have some exciting things planned for the upcoming months,” added Robb.
The City of Pauls Valley plans to move the Main Street program into the newly renovated office in the Arts and Cultural building where they will office, free of rent and utilities, as a part of the city’s in-kind support of the program.
The city still plans to assist Main Street with in-kind support like man power and trash pick-up for events like Brickfest.
The Main Street program is also welcome to come to the Pauls Valley Tourism Board on occasion for assistance in funding for specific events.
When asked if the newly appointed tourism director would uphold the duties of such events as Brickfest, if The Main Street Program fails due to lack of funds, Frizell explained that he hopes the Tourism Director and The Main Street Program can work side by side on such events.
Pauls Valley Chamber Director Della Wilson was not available for comment.