The capital city’s Vista entertainment district, which produces the second highest amount of meal-tax revenue, is seeking more money for its yellow shirt safety and cleanliness program.
The Congaree Vista Guild, an organization that advocates for businesses in the district, asked City Council on Tuesday for $67,000 more so it could hire five yellow shirt ambassadors – up from the 2 1/ 2 the guild employs now. Council has approved $108,000. The guild wants $175,000.
“We want to grow our program as we grow in the Vista,” said the guild’s director Meredith Atkinson of the new businesses and more visitors the retail and restaurant area along Gervais Street has been attracting.
The trade off is the Vista no longer offers shuttle service that connects the district to the Main Street corridor or to Five Points. “We had to make that tough decision,” Atkinson told council in making her plea for more public money.
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Council made no decision about providing the additional money to pay workers who, dressed in yellow shirts, keep the district clean and report problems to police. But members advised the guild to compete for a projected $312,000 in meal tax money that is expected to have accumulated in recent months. A citizen’s committee might take up requests for that money late this week.
The guild also wants council to agree to a $175,000 yearly allotment for yellow shirts for each of the next four years, said Hal Stevenson, the head of the guild’s board.
The Vista already gets $197,000 to promote and market the district, said Libby Gober, council’s chief liaison on meal-tax requests. Money for the yellow shirts is a separate allotment of cash generated by taxes paid largely by patrons of the city’s restaurants and bars.
Until July 1, the guild had an agreement with Main Street area’s City Center Partnership to jointly fund and run a shared yellow shirt program. But when council cut the partnership, which represents businesses in a 36-block area around Main Street, by $103,000, the joint program ended, said Matt Kennell, the partnership’s director.
By sharing costs and equipment, the Vista and the Main Street organizations also had been saving $30,000 in overhead, Kennell said. The loss of both those pots of money reduced the number of yellow shirts in the Main Street area by two to 12, he said.
As with the Vista guild, City Center Partnership also plans to ask council to restore the cuts, Kennell said.
Five Points hires its own yellow shirts. It was unclear Tuesday whether the Five Points Association uses any of the $197,000 in meal taxes it received this year. As with the Vista and the city center organizations, Five Points was cut by $28,000 from its allotment last year, according to city records.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.
City Council gave a first-vote approval to changing the city’s contract with Greenvile developer Bob Hughes.
▪ The change, if finalized by a second vote, will allow Hughes to delay his request for the city to build a $16 million parking garage in the BullStreet complex. Hughes has met the amount of private investment in the complex to make the city build the first of two garages it must provide by contract. The change also frees $5 million help complete construction of two roads inside the complex.
▪ Ailing Councilwoman Leona Plaugh attended the 2 p.m. work session through Skype from her Columbia home. She is undergoing cancer treatment, which has kept her away from recent meetings.