BCC Questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2010

Questions fly over operations at BCC

By John Howell Sr.

Batesville Civic Center (BCC) Director Roy Hyde on Tuesday defended his role in influencing the mayor and aldermen to rescind an offer to help underwrite a bass tournament on Sardis Lake that would have been headquartered at the city-owned facility.

Aldermen in July voted first to provide incentives as host of a Mississippi TBF Bass Tournament at Sardis Dam, but in a special meeting July 22 they voted to withdraw their support.

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North Mississippi Bass Association TBF Director Danny Carter in a letter to the editor (“City missed chance, let Mississippi TBF bass tournament slip through hands,” August 13) had accused Hyde of misleading the mayor and aldermen by understating the amount of the economic impact of the tournament.

At Batesville’s second monthly meeting of its mayor and aldermen Hyde stood by the figures that he had originally provided aldermen: that the tournament in Columbus last year attracted fewer than 100 boats with less than 200 entries. The BCC director said that providing the approximately $14,000 that tournament directors sought would amount to about $70 per participant.

Hyde said that if the city underwrote an established annual BCC event using the same formula, it would cost the city $70,000. The BCC director asked the elected officials to consider “a mechanism to distribute such incentives in a manner that will encourage tourism without placing the city in an untenable situation,” he said.

“I absolutely support the mayor and board on their decision to revise the city’s bid,” Hyde continued. “The City of Grenada was contacted but chose not to commit to the tournament, either,” he added.

The civic center director also responded to criticism leveled at BCC by a Batesville caterer during the August 3 meeting.

At the August 3 meeting, Court Street Catering owner Sheila Pounders contrasted the local facility to those in DeSoto, Memphis and Oxford. Hyde told aldermen that the larger markets enjoy advantages, but “we have a great facility with unlimited configuration possibilities, outstanding customer service and consistently meet our contractual responsibilities.”

“I think Ms. Pounders is confusing catering with concessions,” Hyde continued. “Our food and beverage service (through the contractor) is concessions. … Completely different operations. One is a set menu delivered on a volume basis; the other is completely flexible depending on what you want to serve at a private event.”

The Dawg House currently holds a contract for food and beverage sales at the BCC. The contract requires the contractor to provide food and beverage sales for “all of our public spectator-driven main arena events for which concessions are appropriate,” Hyde stated. “There are some main arena events that they are more excited about than others, … the good comes with the bad… they get the benefit of the big shows but they have to stick with us through the slower shows as well,” he continued.

The BCC director said that the contractor is guaranteed an opportunity to bid for catering. “We try to provide as many (catering) options as we can,” he continued. Renters of the meeting rooms can seek third party caterers. Self-catering is also allowed, Hyde said. He cited family reunions and church functions as examples of activities which provide their own food.

“If you bring in your food, you can’t sell your food; it has to be more of a hospitality-type situation, and these are private events…. We charge a dollar a person if you bring in your own food,” Hyde said, responding to a question from one alderman.

“The third party caterer pays the same percentage as our contractor would pay if they do it,” Hyde said.

Responding to other questions from the mayor and aldermen, Hyde said:

•The contractor is not required to provide service to small, private events unless alcoholic beverages are involved;

•The BCC contractor has exclusive kitchen privileges in the facilities. “That’s the city’s equipment in there,” Hyde said, responding to a question from Alderman Eddie Nabors about the availability of water for third party caterers.

“Caterers serving people would not have to get their water from the bathrooms?” Nabors asked.

“No,” Hyde said. Third party caterers can access water through sinks in the meeting rooms and water fountains. The BCC food and beverage contractor is responsible for the city’s equipment and has its own equipment in the kitchen as well.

“At one time we did allow limited access to the kitchen,” Hyde said. “It caused us so much trouble that we went back to the original plan.”

•Responding to a question from Alderman Bill Dugger about the availability tablecloths at BCC events, “All that’s handled by the caterer,” Hyde said. “We don’t want to blur the lines of responsibility.”

The tablecloth question was driven by a private corporate event which included the governor, that “lasted barely over an hour, and they requested catering services. You don’t open the concession stand for that.”

“They were using one of the rooms. Were they using the main floor?” Alderman Teddy Morrow asked.

Hyde replied that the main stage was used for a short speaking presentation. “Those that were invited to the catering ate,” in the designated meeting room, Hyde said.

“What we’re doing with this food and beverage thing is tested, true; it meets industry standards, … and it protects the city,” Hyde continued.

“So they have a first option to cater, beyond concessions?” Alderman Nabors asked, referring to the BCC contracted food and beverage provider.

“Not really a first option to cater; they are guaranteed an opportunity to bid,” the BCC director replied.

“So the simple fact that there is a contract with someone to provide services for concessions, there’s still a level playing field any time that there’s an event … to be catered?” Nabors asked.

“Which is very different from quite  a few of the other, larger facilities,” Hyde replied. … The contractor wants every bit of that food and beverage business that runs through that venue. We don’t do that. We try to be as fair and open with everything we do as possible.”