Vidalia Conference and Convention Center lost $1.3 million

Published 1:52 am Monday, February 27, 2017


VIDALIA — Looking at a loss of approximately $1.3 million at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center in 2016, Vidalia leaders recently discussed free rentals of the convention center and other town spending.

During the 2015 fiscal year, the Riverfront as a whole, which includes the convention center, had an operating loss of $904,417.

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Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said in the town’s 2016 audit, which has not been released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the convention center had an approximately $1.3 million loss.

Craft said his proposed budget, which was declined by aldermen recently, would cut into that loss with savings of $800,000 to $900,000. The loss under the proposed budget would be $300,000, he said.

Craft said that would be a step in the right direction, but the town still needed to work on spending, recruiting conventions and look at what services it gives away.

In the past, Craft said, for example, many people could book the convention center for events at no cost. Craft’s administration has not provided any free rentals of the building, he said.

Craft said requests from donations from the town are also coming in, and Craft said he is concerned about granting such requests as sponsoring a baseball team or a child taking a cow to a 4-H show.

When spending the public’s money, Craft said a gray area exists unless it is for commerce for the town or promotion of the town.

“I know in the past, lots of donations have been given to individuals, to clubs and to organizations that although good — I support those things — I’m not sure if it was constitutionally legal,” Craft said.

While Craft said he thinks area organizations provide a service to the community, he also wants to do right by taxpayers’ money.

“At the end of the day, y’all are going to be calling me, ‘Hey, why is my utility bill so high? Why can’t y’all drop it?” Craft said. “If we keep doing these things that might not be right, we might not can do any better.”

Alderwoman Sabrina Doré said the town also needs to consider two buildings that are being leased out for free — the old tourist center building and the old Vidalia Police Department station.

VPD Capt. Frankie Carroll said in the agreement with the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, a sheriff’s employee is on hand to take walk-in complaints for Vidalia on John Dale Drive.

Town Manager Bill Murray said he was looking into the lease with the chamber, but said nothing has been paid in a long time.

In other news, Craft said Vidalia residents would see their water bills increase by $1.

The increase is part of the Clean Water Act in which municipalities are being charged by the state, Craft said. Craft said the town is passing the increase on to the customers.