A&P Commission contemplates event center survey


The Monticello Advertising and Promotions (A&P) Commission held its first meeting of 2024 at noon on Monday, January 29. The room was packed and full of anticipation leading up to the discussion of the social media survey about the proposed event center. Members of the commission, Ron Echol and members of the Event Center Committee, and the mayor were all on hand to talk about what the next steps for the event center should be.

“I was an advocate of asking the people what they want. I believe in that,” Allan Nichols said. “I also believe that you ask them what they want, as long as what you’re asking is possible. I don’t believe you ask a child what color bicycle they want if you’re struggling to pay the rent. That isn’t realistic. It creates expectations that aren’t possible and I’m not for that.”

“That is a thought that I’ve had with this survey process,” Commissioner Kim Patel said. “Do we discuss financing first, or do we discuss what we want so that we know how much financing we need? My only concern at this moment is whether or not this is the right time to put the survey out. If we show the citizens of Monticello a dream that we can’t fulfill, it’s going to create more distrust and negative feelings towards the city. We don’t want to do that, we need the people to trust the community that they live in and trust that we are going to do what we say we are going to do, not just say things to get them hyped and then not follow through.”

“I feel like this was putting the cart before the horse,” Commissioner Annette Taylor added. “We don’t have financing. We haven’t discussed any tax that we have to get to bring this to fruition. What if we did get a tax on the ballot and passed this year? We’re still five to ten years away from building anything.”

“If financing is competing with necessities it shouldn’t even be a question,” Allan Nichols added. “If there are water and sewer lines that need to be replaced or a garbage truck that only works two weeks out of the month, our resources have to go to taking care of these items. Infrastructure is something that we cannot forego. We also have to be careful with any proposed tax, We are up against the wall approaching ten percent tax here. We don’t want to exceed that mark. I also believe that you are going to have a very difficult time getting ‘Joe Public’ to vote for any additional taxes right now. For anything at all.”

Alderman Mike Wigley spoke and said that the city currently isn’t in a position to fund a project of this magnitude. Work is being done to free up monies and increase profitability, but reaching the level needed is still years in the future.

“I think that everyone here is 100 percent for the event center,” Commissioner Glenda Nichols said. “This is a win-win for our city. We’d love to have it. In my humble opinion, we need to figure out what we’re going to do with it. We want it to be an economic driver and help establish additional businesses nearby. I can see it being a catalyst to spur growth. I think finding the optimal location is very important.”

“It’s good to see so many people taking interest in this project,” Mayor Jason Akers noted. “I’ve never seen this many people at an A&P meeting. My only concern, and I’m speaking as Jason who lives on Bolling St., not the mayor, is that we are creating a little bit of confirmation bias here. If we want to get a true assessment of the needs of the community, we have to ask more than do you want cake, cookies, or ice cream. The survey is good, but I think we should be more inclusive when we ask the community what they want. We need to know their priorities. Nonetheless, any dialogue is good dialogue as long as we can all agree to disagree and not get angry no matter which way this goes. I don’t like the idea of an aquatic center. I think it’s a money pit. In a city of 8,400 people, I don’t think it’s something you ever do. I don’t think it would remain viable for very long. I do however believe that if one of our local bank presidents were able to convince the Arkansas Banker’s Association to hold a meeting here we should have a space that would accommodate them.”

Ron Echols then discussed how he got involved in the project. He discussed traveling to other cities to gather information on the project.

After further discussion, the commission decided not to move forward with the survey at this time. Once more details are ironed out the matter will be revisited. Echols withdrew his participation in the project and Ryan Copico was named the new liason with the Sells Agency.