Some DDA board members surprised at First Friday decision

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October 12, 2006

When the Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard decided to pull funding from First Friday, some board members were stunned.

They felt they were a part of the decision.

The decision to cut funding from First Friday came through Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard...but Authority board members say they weren't included on that decision, and they want to make sure that when an important decision is made they can weigh in.

That was the subject of today's DDA meeting.

Woodard says it wasn't her intention to cut funding from First Friday before telling board members.

"I think people feel it was a knee jerk decision, and I'm not happy how the news got out," she said. "We wanted to have a board meeting."

But before this meeting could happen, news got out that the DDA would no longer fund First Friday.

The decision caught board members like Steven Kendrick off guard.

"The issue was how the decision was made, and not necessarily that it was made," he told News 12. "It was done in a process that should have allowed me to be involved."

Board member Brad Owens agrees.

"My point is, there was no public meeting held about doing away with the funding," he said.

"It was not done in the manner as it should have been, but it has already happened," said board member Rev. J.R. Hatney.

Woodard says she has taken measures to make sure every board member is informed.

"We probably made a mistake in the way it was handled, and Paul and I apologized for that," she said.

Hatney says that the DDA is not trying to micro-manage what the executive director does. He says it's just good business sense to keep the board informed.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength and Business and Licensing Director Rob Sherman attended today's meeting. They weighed in on the discussion on what problems First Friday has and how they can be corrected.

The sheriff says he would like to see vendors close up shop earlier on Fridays, instead of staying open on downtown streets until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.

In the meantime, the Downtown Alliance, a group of downtown business owners, is stepping in to save First Friday.

They have raised almost $12,000 to keep the event going.

Expenses are about $1000 a month for security, insurance, and entertainment.