Tourist Development Council member Scott M. Bartosch of St Augustine has served as an un-compensated representative responsible for developing tourism in St Johns County since the TDC was reconstituted by the Board of Commissioners in 2010.
At their meeting July 15th, Tourist Development Council members discussed the Fiscal 2014 Arts, Culture and Heritage funding program, not all of which was complimentary; including remarks by Bartosch related to the process employed to screen applicants before they reach the TDC, among other issues.
“The whole point of putting together Category II the way it is put together, was to get to the point where we knew what we were doing,” Bartosch observed. “Frankly, I am not so sure we know.”
Criticism has been vocal by dozens of local not-for-profit charitable and civic organizations who say that between what the Cultural Council tells them about the grant qualifications, and how the funding panel scores their applications, can be as different as night and day. And, there is enough criticism to go around — some of it directed at the Tourist Development Council for mismanaging the funding panel or the third-party contract with the St Johns Cultural Council, and some of it directed to the Board of County Commissioners who allow it to continue.
In comments preceding Bartosch’s conclusion about Category II funding process, precipitated by complaints he has heard from the artist, cultural and heritage community about the last go-round of funding recommendations, he spoke frankly to the other members and funding panel representative, Adam Shockey.
“Let’s get down to the brass tacks here; this Council is responsible for developing tourism in St Johns County and we keep dancing around the difficult issues,” Bartosch said. “If the criterion is going to be heads in beds and nothing else, then we have to just say that and not give anybody else any money. If it’s going to be heads in beds — plus the other things that the people like to do while they’re here — then, then we have to do that.”
An audio recording of the last funding panel meeting where the applications were scored, obtained by Historic City News as well as some of the organizations who applied for funds, paints a picture of a sometimes “subjective” assessment of what are supposed to be “objective” measures on which the applicants will be scored. That goal was clearly not achieved as evidenced by the wide, sweeping variances in scores awarded by the funding panel evaluators.
“We can’t do one, one year and the other the next year and say, “Well, we really didn’t mean it, now we’re going to do this”, Bartosch directed. “We can’t keep doing that.”
The funding panel will convene again on Monday and will have their first opportunity as a group to review and respond to the comments of Bartosch and others on the Board of the Tourist Development Council.
If you plan to attend, the meeting of the St Johns County Tourist Development Council Funding Panel will be held on Monday, August 12, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. in the San Sebastian Conference Room, located on the second floor of the County Administration Palace located at 500 San Sebastian View in St Augustine. The meeting is open to the public and public comments may be made in accordance with the agenda.