Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tourism Breakfast

Tourism breakfast
The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Vistors Bureau hosted its annual Tourism Breakfast and Award Ceremony on Thursday. The event is an opportunity to recognize businesses and individuals who have made vital contributions to Morgan County’s tourism and travel industry, said Tami Reist, president of the vistors’ bureau. Former Decatur Mayor and state Rep. Bill Dukes and wife Juanita Dukes after he was named the recipient of the Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” award. The visitors’ bureau also presented the family of the “father of Point Mallard,” J. Gilmer Blackburn, with the new “Legacy” award. Juergen Beck won the “Good Neighbor” of tourism award. See www.decaturdaily.com/stories/71473.html for more details.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beck, Dukes amont tourism bureau award winners

By Tiffeny Hurtado

Far away from the Black Forest, Germany-native-turned-American-citizen Juergen Beck wowed many with his video presentation, “The Musical Heritage of Decatur and Morgan County.”

The promotional video for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Vistors Bureau showcased the area’s cultural jewels nestled in the Tennessee Valley — its local musicians, festivals and its rich history­— at the annual Tourism Breakfast and Award Ceremony on Thursday morning. Beck, 44, began shooting local events in the spring and spent another two weeks editing the shots together. On Thursday, he walked away with the vistors bureau’s “Good Neighbor” of tourism award.

Move to America
“In 1995, Beck sold practically everything he owned to move to America to pursue his life-long ambitions,” said Tami Reist, president of the vistors’ bureau.

He worked as a photojournalist for a Huntsville television station, and in 2003, became an American citizen. Beck then established his company, Freedom Light Production in 2005, a name symbolic of his appreciation of America’s liberties and opportunities for advancement.

“I’ve been here eight years now, and I consider Decatur my home,” Beck said. “I’m proud to be a part of it, and I see the potential this area has. I’m happy to call it my home.”

Reist told the gathering: “This annual breakfast is an opportunity to recognize those businesses and individuals who have made vital contributions to Morgan County’s tourism and travel industry.”

In honor of his tireless dedication to Decatur and its citizens, the visitors’ bureau presented the family of the “Father of Point Mallard,” Gilmer Blackburn, with the new “Legacy” award. Ronnie Dukes cited the former tax attorney’s vision as Decatur mayor, which resulted in the development of Point Mallard, the construction of a new City Hall and the establishment of new parks and recreation centers throughout the city.

Another former Decatur mayor was also recognized at the ceremony. Ronnie Dukes presented the Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” award to his father, former state representative Bill Dukes, adding another honor to the already-long list of distinctions recognizing the public servant. Beverly Walker praised Dukes for his reputation for honesty and for being “rich in non-material ways.”

The vistors’ bureau’s own Kayla Riggs, special events and sports marketing director, won the “Young Professional of the Year” award while the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic received the “Event of the Year” award. Julianne Lowman, the marketing director for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, also won a marketing college scholarship for the second straight year at the ceremony.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) was honored with the Top Corporate Award winner for generating 7,766 hotel room nights in the Decatur area over the past year.

Other top corporate winners for local hotel room-nights booked included: Nucor with 4,036, International Paper with 2,394, Alphapet Inc. with 2,269, Lockheed Martin with 2,054, Tennessee Valley Authority with 1,857, Daikin with 1,750, BP with 1,663, 3M with 1,555 and General Electric with 1,318.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Council OKs $2.4 million in appropriations

By Evan Belanger

The Decatur City Council approved more than $2.4 million in appropriations this week, cutting funding to at least 27 public-service agencies and boosting funding to four others.

The fiscal 2011 appropriations were down more than 4 percent compared to the 2010 budget, but a prior commitment to increase the city’s funding toward a downtown college campus negated the savings during the tight fiscal year.

Hardest hit
Those hardest hit by the cuts included the Decatur Public Library, which lost $37,208, and the Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County, which lost $14,820. The appropriations also cut funding to the Morgan County Health Department by $29,640 and to the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts by $9,400.

Receiving boosts
Meanwhile, agencies receiving funding boosts included the Chamber of Commerce’s Cornerstone Partnership, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center, and the Morgan County Area Transportation System.

While the council approved a total of 33 appropriations, Councilman Billy Jackson opposed funding for the Chamber of Commerce, the Decatur Beautification Board, the Princess Theatre, and the Entrepreneurial Center. During discussion, he argued the appropriations, worth a combined $220,882, would be better spent drawing down the city’s more than $1 million budget deficit for fiscal 2011.

“I don’t know that this best impacts our citizens’ interests in the way we should be doing,” he said.

He also complained many of the cuts would not have been necessary if the city had spent more wisely during the first two years of the administration.

Councilman Ronny Russell also opposed funding the Entrepreneurial Center.

While he said he supports the center’s work, he did not agree the city should stick to a previous commitment to increase its funding from $60,000 to $100,000 during fiscal 2011.

“We’ve also made commitments to others that we’re having to basically pull back on...” he said, “I believe that everyone should have a share in that.”

Initially, the council had proposed funding the center $90,000, but Councilman Roger Anders argued the council should keep the commitment it made in July.

“We knew financially where we were then, and we know where we are now,” he said.

Not included in the appropriations was $20,000 to the Carnegie Visual Arts Center — up from $4,940 in fiscal 2010. Carnegie Board President Noel King requested last month the city delay that appropriation while the Carnegie audits its financial records.

The board announced weeks ago its executive director had resigned after “accounting irregularities” were discovered. Police are investigating the matter.

Also excluded was a $4,800 appropriation to the Morgan County System of Services.

City Attorney Herman Marks said that the council will consider that funding later in the year.

Soccer tourneys back in Decatur for 3 more years

By Paul Huggins

Three state soccer tournaments will return to Decatur for three more years, the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced.

In addition, the Tennessee State Soccer Association will bring the Olympic Development Program here in January.

The Alabama Youth Soccer Association will bring its Division I State Cup preliminaries for Under 13-14 teams, Division II State Cup for Under 11-13 teams and the Division I Final Four here through 2013.

The Division I and II preliminaries will be May 6-8, 2011, and the Division I Final Four will be May 13-15. All tournaments will be at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

“The 2010 tournaments produced an economic impact of over $436,000,” said Tami Reist, visitors bureau president. “The tournaments brought athletes and their families where they used hotels, gas stations and restaurants over the course of two weekends.”

Bureau records show the three tourneys filled 731 rooms nights last year and 350 room nights in 2009.

The Division I tournament is a top-level qualifying event with winners advancing to regional tournaments with an invitation to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship on the line. The Division II tournament decides the state champions to represent Alabama in the United States Youth Soccer Association Region III President’s Cup, which will occur in Decatur in June.

Decatur has hosted Alabama’s Olympic Development Program previously, but this is the first year Jack Allen drew ODP players and coaches from Tennessee. The event typically attracts about 300 players, and it will occur Jan. 22-23.

The elite program identifies the best players in the state and offers technical and tactical training from nationally licensed coaches and college coaches

Last year and in 2009, Alabama’s ODP filled 65 room nights.

Boat dealer helps angler who lost his craft in wreck

By Bayne Hughes

Massachusetts angler Sheron Brown found himself up the river without a boat Wednesday morning.

Brown, who is in Decatur preparing for this weekend’s FLW American Fishing Series tournament, had a wreck early Wednesday morning on Alabama 20 that destroyed his boat.

The wreck put him in a predicament. If he didn’t have a boat before today’s registration, he and his co-angler would not be allowed to compete.

But all it took was a few phone calls from Tammi Reist of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and his problem was solved.

Fredricks Marine, a new boat store in Priceville that opens in January on Bethel Road, is loaning Brown a Ranger bass boat for the tournament.

“This state is wonderful,” Brown said. “The people are wonderful here.”

Brown is staying at the Holiday Inn. As is his routine, he got up about 4 a.m. and went with his friend, Wayne Gottobed, to get gas at about 5:15 a.m. before going to Ingalls Harbor for a day of practice.

Brown said a pickup truck plowed into his boat as he crossed Alabama 20 from the hotel to the Shell station.

“I looked back and wondered, ‘Where is my boat?’” Brown said.

The wreck badly damaged the boat, including moving the motor slightly and bending the prop. It bent the trailer in half.

“The truck lifted the boat and tossed it into the air,” Brown said.

Brown said no one was injured.

Now Brown, who is from Shirley, Mass., about 30 miles west of Boston, was not only dealing with the stress of preparing for his first tourney as a professional, he was boatless.

“It cost me a lot of money to come here,” Brown said. “I had made some repairs and improvements to my truck and boat before I left, and it’s a long way from home. It took me two days to get to Decatur.”

As a fellow fisherman, Fredricks General Manager Ken Chambers said he felt compassion for the visiting angler’s predicament.

“I feel for the guy,” Chambers said. “I just put myself in his shoes. What would I feel like if I were that far away from home and lost my boat? I’m just glad I’m able to help out.”

Brown was thankful for the help. He said he is hopeful he can find a way to promote Fredricks as a payback for the store’s help.

“That’s just so awesome for a someone to be willing to help out a total stranger,” Brown said.

Brown is one of 240 fishermen in Decatur competing in the tournament at Ingalls Harbor. Tournament Director Ron Lappin said he heard about the wreck at about 6 a.m. He was relieved that no one was hurt and happy that Brown found a boat.

With the FLW season starting in January and ending at Thanksgiving, Lappin said anglers having wrecks “is not as rare as one might think. It’s happened three or four times this year.”

Lappin said another angler headed to Decatur had a wreck in Pulaski, Tenn., and will not get to compete this weekend.