A and P gives city $125,000 for grant matching funds, denies $200,000 request for general funds

The Camden Advertising and Promotion Commission approved spending of up to $125,000 for repairs on the gazebo at Sandy Beach at its regular meeting on August 30

The money will only be spent if the commission wins a grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and would serve to match whatever grant funds are awarded.

City Code Enforcer Ben Wooten said, “This particular grant we applied for last year, (but) we didn’t get it. It was a big ticket, so this year we are applying for just a part of Sandy Beach, and that’s the gazebo. Replace boards, repaint the top and sandblast the metal.”

He added, “It’s a $250,000 matching grant, which means our part would be $125,000.”

Wooten explained that the city council passed a resolution August to apply for the grant and was requesting funding from the A&P commission for park improvements.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the funding, with commissioner Miken Tidwell stating that the gazebo is the first thing people see when they travel along the highway by Sandy Beach and repairing it would add a lot of value to the park.

Alderman Cecil McDonald, the City of Camden’s appointee to the A&P Commission, also came before the board Tuesday to ask for $100,000 to be transferred from the A&P Fund to the City General Fund.

At August’s City Council meeting, Alderman L.E. Lindsey asked about a transfer of $200,000 from the commission to the city, which had only been partially made and was budgeted for the 2022 operating budget of the city.

City Treasurer Lauren Robertson stated that at an earlier A&P meeting, the board decided to only provide half the budgeted amount.

“I don’t know that is the way that works. If they gave us a number of $200,000 and we approved the budget for $200,000 can they arbitrarily pull that?” Lindsey asked.

City Clerk Donna Stewart said Tidwell stated to her, “If (they) want the other $100,000 someone from the council should come to ask for it.”

At the A&P meeting, McDonald said , “They’ve asked me to present this to A&P and bring the answer back to them.”

A&P Commissioner Connie Cox stated, “My thoughts on this are, for the last 10 years, our average (budget) for parks from the restaurant tax has been $215,000 a year. I don’t feel like the intent of this tax was to give have the money back to the city to upkeep. I think the intent of this money is to go out there and create tourism and increase the sales tax, which then goes to the city.”

Commissioner Travis Daniel agreed.

“If we don’t make but $200,000 a year and they’re asking for all of it, even half of it is a hard pill to swallow,” he said.

No recommendation was made and McDonald’s request died on the table.

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