Nonprofit asks for $25,000 to cover city’s weekend events

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

A nonprofit organization raised approximately $125,000 for the four events the city of Selma has planned as part of this weekend’s March on Selma celebration.

However, the group is about $25,000 from covering all costs and has asked the Selma City Council to cover the difference.

Sonya McCall, assistant to Selma Mayor George Evans, made the request during Wednesday night’s work session.

“The money for the events have been raised through donations [and sponsorships] so the city hasn’t spent any money to date, but because of the shortfall, we are asking for the city to assist,” McCall said.

The Sounds of Celebration, Inc. nonprofit was created last year to fundraise and plan city sponsored events for the Bloody Sunday anniversary weekend.

Four events were being put on this year, a welcome reception that took place Thursday evening, a business symposium Friday at the Carl Morgan Convention Center, a gala Friday night at the George Evans Reception Hall and a “Spring Super Jam” concert Saturday from 7-10 p.m. at the Riverfront Amphitheater.

Selma City Councilman Cecil Williamson said the fact that sponsorships will cover most of the costs makes the plans “a little more palatable” but that it was “absurd” to spend more than $153,000 on four events.

“That is just mind-boggling to me that we have done that,” Williamson said.

McCall took issue with Williamson describing the plans they way he did.

“No sir, it’s not. Consider the events we are having and the people we are having,” McCall said. “These people don’t come free. Whether we would like for them to or not. Many of them have agreed to cut their prices to be with us this weekend.”

The business symposium will include former United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Shark Tank winner Erica Barrett and others.

Headliners for Saturday’s concert are Emmy winning poet Hank Stewart, guitarist Keith Cashmere Williams and gospel singer Apostle Veryl Howard.

Additional costs include caterers for the welcome reception and gala, McCall said.

“When you add those things together, that’s the price,” McCall said. “He [Mayor George Evans] did not ask in the beginning because we were asking for donations to cover everything but now we are down to the wire.”

Last year, the city council made a $50,000 donation to help Sounds of Celebration plan for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

There will also be overtime costs associated with this year’s event — estimates are about $20,000 for the police department and close to that for public works.

Councilman Greg Bjelke asked if more sponsorship money could be raised to cover the remaining costs.

McCall said there are some pledges still outstanding but on Friday there will invoices that must be paid.

“Come Friday, there are bills that have to be paid when these people step foot in Selma. I cannot pay them on a commitment. There are some commitments out there, but the checks have not been received to date,” McCall said.

The council couldn’t take action during the work session, but a consensus was to put the bills on the consent agenda and paying for them from the city’s half-cent sales tax fund.

Council president Corey Bowie closed the discussion on the issue by asking everyone to keep the price tag in perspective with what the city does for other celebrations.

“We have paid that much for fireworks. Let’s keep that in mind,” Bowie said.