Festival grounds disputes still unresolved
Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen still have several issues to work through when it comes to festival grounds policies, personnel and events.
During public comments at a Tuesday board meeting, several residents criticized the board for not addressing complaints regarding festival grounds director Audrey Hager, not releasing public records and for subsidizing the expenses of a concert.
Popcorn Sutton Jam
Becky Ramey, one of the organizers for the annual Popcorn Sutton Jam, asked the board to make a decision on whether she could hold her event at the festival grounds the same days next year under the new name of Hillbilly Woodstock.
While Ramey and Pam Sutton, Popcorn’s widow, have been partners of the event for four years, the two will not work together for next year’s event. Ramey blamed Hager for some of her disagreements with Sutton.
The board of aldermen will have to decide whether to let Pam Sutton continue to have the Popcorn Sutton Jam or allow Ramey to have her newly named event. Ramey said she needed a decision soon because she already had moonshiners, bands and vendors who needed to know the date.
“I have a few offers, but I don’t want to take them. I want to be in Maggie Valley because that’s where I started – that’s where I want to keep doing it,” she said.
Mandy Hartline, owner of Stony Creek Motel, said local event promoters weren’t the only ones who had complaints about Hager’s behavior. She then read from a letter received at town hall Aug. 26 from a Maggie Valley tourist.
The letter from Anita Bussard of Maryland was addressed to Town Manager Tim Barth and stated that she and her husband traveled to Maggie for the last two years to attend the Popcorn Sutton Jam. According to the letter, Bussard had an “undesirable exchange” with Hager during another event she attended in Maggie. She claimed Hager was belittling the event and the organizers during their conversation. She encountered Hager again at this year’s Popcorn Sutton event in August and claimed Hager was again rude and barking orders at people.
“I’m saddened to say but these past experiences have caused us to think twice about attending any future events at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds,” she wrote. “It is difficult to imagine that such an unprincipled person as herself would be employed in a public position.”
Hartline urged the board to reach a decision soon because the Popcorn Sutton Jam brought in a lot of money to the area.
Lack of response
Maggie Valley resident Sonja Michel, asked the board if they were aware of the letter sent to Barth and why no one had responded to it.
Mayor Ron DeSimone said he had seen in, but no one else responded.
“If I was a tourist and wrote to a town because someone offended me, I would hope the town would have the courtesy to say something back to me,” Michel said. “What do you think she’s thinking of our town system?”
She said she also requested some public records from the town and hadn’t received them yet.
“Apparently they’re being held hostage, and I want to now why,” she said.
Michel has asked for records showing how much money the town has paid out for the Matt Stillwell concert, which was held Aug. 10 at the festival grounds.
“That compilation hasn’t been completed — that’s why you haven’t gotten it,” DeSimone said.
Michel said it didn’t matter if it was completed, if checks were mailed out it is a public record.
“As soon as data is complete you’ll be able to get it,” DeSimone said.
Michel received the information she requested the next day.
Some residents are upset that the town paid the expenses for the Matt Stillwell concert. However, the event promoter Charlie Meadows, who also sits on the festival grounds board and is seeking a position on the town governing board, signed a contract with the town to repay any shortfall after the revenue was tabulated.
Beth Robinson Reece, owner of the Maggie Valley Inn, told the board she didn’t think Meadows did anything wrong.
“I think town did something wrong,” she said. Even though Meadows agreed to pay back the expenses, the contract did not specify when or how the expenses would be paid.
According the town’s expense and revenue report, the concern generated $10,955 while the expenses so far have totaled $16,500. That leaves a $5,544 shortfall for Meadows to pay.
Alderman Mike Matthews said the board needed to schedule a meeting to discuss all the festival grounds issues and whether any policies were violated by paying the concert expenses without a vote from the board of aldermen.
DeSimone said a meeting should be called once all the receipts are received from the Stillwell concert.
The board also discussed holding a closed session to discuss personnel, specifically Hager.