The Jasper Advertising and Promotion Commission (JAPC) held its first meeting Friday, July 9. Ernie Yeager, owner of the Junction One-Stop, was present and though he has not been approved by the full city council, he has agreed to fill the final vacant seat on the commission.
At the beginning of the meeting the five business representatives drew for initial length of terms. Hereafter commissioners will serve terms of four years. Two city council members are also assigned to sit on the commission.
Bubba Lloyd, of Bubba's Buffalo River Store, drew the four year term, Yeager drew the three year term, Russ Todd, of the Ozark Cafe and Blake Keeton, of Harps Food Store, both drew two year terms and Angela Slape, the commission's at large member, drew the one year term. The city council representatives are Todd Parker and Michael Thomas. Thomas was absent.
Commission officers were also elected. Lloyd is the commission chair. Slape is the commission secretary. Keeton is the commission treasurer.
The commissioners then began to set up the operational procedures.
Although the commission was formed without the benefit of a one percent tax on the sale of prepared food in the city to provide it revenue, the city is appropriating a one time $5,000 as seed money for the commission to operate. The commission is autonomous, and will have to keep record of receipts, checks and petty cash funds. It must also establish and maintain a listing of all fixed assets or equipment that it acquires. Such assets must have a dollar value in the amount of $2,000 and a useful life of at least a year.
Mayor Jan Larson and the city council's attorney Dawn Allen, of Eureka Springs, were in attendance to help the commission through its first meeting. Larson said the commission can use city hall for its meetings, but it does not have to. Its records may also be stored there.
City Clerk Janet Clark was also present and she reviewed the ordinance establishing the commission and its duties. Where the word "shall" appears in the documents it means that "it's the law," she explained, making sure it was clear with all of the commissioners.
Larson also told the commissioners the funding the city is providing comes from a grant the city was going to use to hire a city event planner. It is a part-time position paying $12.75 an hour.
Under state law, municipalities are prohibited from spending tax revenues to promote and advertise themselves. That is why the council decided to follow the model being used by other cities. They established tourism, advertising and promotion commissions of their own along with the passage of the "hamburger tax." In studying the process Jasper city and business leaders met with Matt Bell, director of the Harrison Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission to get some guidance and advice.
After consideration, the Jasper City Council voted to establish the JAPC, but did not want to go ahead and levy on its own the hamburger tax with which to fund it. They preferred the commission to develop and initiate a program that would demonstrate to voters its value.
Also present at the meeting was Fred Lydick, a Jasper business owner and one of the volunteer promotors of the Buffalo River Elk Festival held in Jasper. This year, due to the pandemic, the festival was moved from the end of June to the Labor Day weekend in September. He suggested promoting Jasper to motorcycle enthusiasts.
Lydick said the commission's challenge will be to break even, but he is not in favor of the hamburger tax because it would be collected by only a few city businesses, but benefit all.
Parker said he sees the commission's goal should be getting visitors to stay in Jasper longer by suggesting things to do after having a meal or attending an event. He called attention to a flyer that Yeager produced years ago telling visitors 10 things to do while in Jasper. He said he kept the piece and has copies he puts in his rental chalet.
Lloyd said while he is in favor of having the tax, an increase in visitors will raise other tax revenues that will help the city further develop Bradley Park and improve the quality of life for city and county residents.
Larson said tourism is the main focus of the city's long range economic development plan.
The commission will meet again at 2 p.m., Friday, July 23.