Council covers last $25,000 of celebration expenses

Published 10:57 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Selma City Council approved paying $25,000 to cover the final expenses of last weekend’s March on Selma celebration.

A nonprofit organized to raise money for the event secured approximately $100,000 in sponsorships and donations but fell short of covering all expenses.

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

Four events were put on this year, a welcome reception Thursday, a business symposium Friday, a gala Friday night and a concert Saturday night.

Corey Bowie, Greg Bjelke, Susan Keith and Sam Randolph voted to pay the extra expenses with revenue from the city’s half-cent sales tax. Cecil Williamson and Bennie Ruth Crenshaw voted against the expense. Michael Johnson abstained.

Crenshaw said she wished the council had more input on the events and what they would cost.

“The council knew very little about what was going on,” Crenshaw said.

Williamson said the city had a contract with Sounds of Celebration that stipulated expenses would not exceed $95,500.

“If they had done it for what the contract require and for what they said they would … we would not need this extra $25,000,” Williamson said

Mayor George Evans said the events were great publicity for the city and money well invested. He said expenses increased at the last minute because for travel and the fact several guests had to stay in Montgomery due to Selma hotels being booked all weekend.

“At the end of the day, this company came here and gave money back to the city. I assure you if all of you had come to the events you would have said point blank it was worth it,” Evans said. “These people came here, and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves in our city. There are local businesses who benefited from this event in our city big time.”

Before the vote, Evans said he would raise the money some other way should the council not pay the bills. He said it’s possible some late sponsorship money might still come in to city hall.

“If the council doesn’t want to give the $25,000, I’ll find a way to get it. I don’t want to fight that battle. I really don’t,” Evans said.

Both Evans and Williamson commended the organization for their fundraising efforts.

In addition to the sponsors, Evans also thanked the police department, fire department, public works and other city departments for their work.