Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fishing Constant

by Amy Pollick
The Decatur Daily

Forrest Keith felt he was in his element the last time he visited Japan and not just because his hosts were gracious and hospitable.

When a discussion about Japanese bass fishing arose at the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting, Keith, the human resources manager at Daikin America, said a company official took him to visit the country’s largest lake, Lake Biwa. The lake was surrounded by the typical retailers found around any recreational water in Alabama, such as personal watercraft rentals, bait shops, marinas and boat ramps, he said.

Keith said his escort pointed out, “This is redneck Japan.”

Keith said. “I felt right at home.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Decatur visitors bureau

by Paul Huggins
The Decatur Daily

The Decatur Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau conducted the following business at its monthly meeting Thursday:

■Reported the bureau received $39,822 in revenue in February and had $55,509 in expenses, for a net loss of $15,686. For fiscal 2011, expenses are $11,808 higher than revenue.
■Reported the city collected $46,654 in lodging taxes in December, which was 6 percent lower than the same month last year. For fiscal 2011, lodging taxes are up 11 percent compared to the same five-month period last year.
■Reported the $2-per-night room occupancy fee generated $28,843 in December, up $1,238 compared to the same month last year. The room occupancy rate that month was 35 percent.
■Reported special events filled 957 room nights in February for an economic impact of $485,598. The largest events were the UAHuntsville Charger Chillout softball tournament, which had 740 room nights (259 more than 2010’s event), and the Southern Collegiate Bass Tournament, which had 162 room nights.
■Announced the Alabama Department of Transportation approved three wayfinding signs for the Jack Allen Soccer Complex. Two will be on Modaus Road Southwest and one on Danville Road Southwest. ALDOT also approved a pedestrian kiosk for Delano Park that maps out Albany and Old Decatur historic districts.
■Announced that the second annual American Dream Tournament by Koto Kiriyama, will return to Ingalls Harbor the first weekend in December.

Visitors Bureau to overhaul site

by Paul Huggins
The Decatur Daily

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is giving its website a complete overhaul.

The bureau board of directors approved spending $15,760 with Red Sage Communications to build a custom site for the bureau and a second, smaller site for the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association.

The existing website was created five years ago.

Tami Reist, bureau president, said the bureau has added many new pages to its site since 2006 but has not streamlined it or kept up with current Internet search trends. The staff has reported it regularly bogs down, delaying time for pages and links to open. The new site will have upgrades that make it easier to navigate with mobile devices.

The bureau did not budget for the overhaul. The 2011 budget has $10,000 in contingency funds for special events and expects to get a $5,000 grant from the state.

Wade Weaver, board treasurer, said the bureau has the reserves to pay for the upgrade.

Paul Huggins

Monday, March 21, 2011

Too fast for riverboats?

by Amy Pollick
Your Don't Say
The Decatur Daily

Fred Tull, owner of the Pickwick Belle riverboat considering a move from Florence to Decatur, has vast experience behind the wheel of a big boat.
But you won’t see him steering the true paddle wheeler if it comes to Decatur, and not just because he’s busy running a industrial/commercial contractor business, based in Corinth, Miss.
Steering the Pickwick Belle probably would be frustrating for Tull because he’s a former speedboat champion. He once held the world record at 114.8 mph in his Super Vee Class Pier 57 offshore racing boat. The Pickwick Belle’s top speed is 6 mph.
While Tull researched Decatur on Wednesday, he told Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, that he saw promising sites for staging powerboat races here.
Tanya Irwin, marketing director for the Pickwick Belle, has also been race director for The Pickwick Challenge, a three-day series of powerboat races in Tennessee that draws crowds of about 30,000.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Meeting Notes- Morgan County Commission

The Decatur Daily
by Sheryl Marsh
During a meeting Thursday, the Morgan County Commission:

■Approved paying January expenses totaling $5,049,938.60.
■Approved giving money to: Alabama Fair, $100, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, $2,500, Hartselle-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, $900, and Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce (directory), $2,980.
■Approved paying $1,030 to King Insurance Agency for commercial property coverage of all three license commissioner’s offices.
■Approved paying $180 to the Society for Human Resource Management for membership dues for Morgan Human Resource Director Terry Naccarato.
■Approved paying $25,660 to Hometown Ford Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Opelika, for a vehicle for the transportation system.
■Authorized District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie to get quotes for a storage facility at Huskey Park.
■Authorized the chairman to advertise for bids for fencing at West Park.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Decatur School Calendar in flux

Board OKs plan, but pending bill could cut 5 days from schedule
By Bayne Hughes
The Decatur Daily

The 2011-12 calendar approved by the Decatur school board Tuesday eliminates fall break, cuts Thanksgiving break to three days, cuts Christmas break to nine days, and has one inclement weather day scheduled.

But the calendar — which Superintendent Sam Houston said the PTA Council, a group of teacher representatives and a calendar committee chose — could change before it goes into effect.

State Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, has proposed a bill that would allow school to start Aug. 22 and end on the Friday before Memorial Day. Barton told the Mobile Press-Register that his bill would help the summer tourism economy.

Decatur approved a start date of Aug. 15 and the same end date as Barton’s proposal, May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day.

“Between hurricanes and oil spills, South Alabama has taken a severe beating over the last few years,” Barton said in a written statement to the Mobile Press-Register. “This legislation will provide a much-deserved break for our tourism industry and has no negative impact on our schools.”

Houston said Decatur’s calendar follows state Superintendent Joe Morton’s request to have a later start to the school year. He is not, however, in favor of losing another five days.

He called Barton’s view “short-sighted” because he said the representative’s statement only considers the interest of one area of the state.

“His (Barton’s) proposal would compromise our ability to perform well on (standardized) tests,” Houston said. “It may affect the economic conditions of a local community as much or more than any potential tourism losses.”

Houston said pushing the start back another five days would probably impact Christmas break the most. He said the second semester probably would start before students celebrate the new year.

He said he wouldn’t want to cut Veterans Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I wouldn’t want to send a message to students that we shouldn’t observe days that are recognized as important to certain groups,” Houston said.

Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Visitors Bureau, said Decatur’s new school calendar “is a start,” but she likes Barton’s proposal.

She said the tourist attractions, particularly Point Mallard, in Decatur and Morgan County, need the later start to benefit from travelers from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana who are passing through on the way to Florida.

“We’re in a good location down Interstate 65 for them to stop for a rest before heading to the beach,” Reist said.

Reist said at least two school systems, Lawrence and Baldwin counties, started school later in 2010-11. She said it will be interesting to see how the later start impacts academics.

School board President Karen Duke has been in favor of pushing the start date back, but she said Barton’s proposal pushes it too far. She said parents and business leaders tell her school starts too early, but teachers prefer the early start because it gives days off during the school year.

“It’s hard to make everybody happy,” Duke said.

For the 2010-11 school year, Decatur students started school on Aug. 9. Students’ last day is May 31 because of unscheduled weather make-up days.

New school calendar
Highlights of the 2011-12 school calendar that the Decatur City Board of Education approved Tuesday:

■School starts Aug. 15.
■Thanksgiving break is Nov. 23-26.
■Christmas break is Dec. 20 through Jan. 4.
■Spring semester starts Jan. 5.
■Spring break is April 23-27.
■Last day for students is May 24.
■Austin High School graduation is May 24.
■Decatur High School graduation is May 25.