Map project may benefit July 4 parade

In a turn that was described as “a perfect fit” by Bethany Beach Town Manager Cliff Graviet and a “win-win” situation by Town Council Member Tony McClenny, members of the town’s Communications Committee voted unanimously at their June 20 meeting to hand over the planned town map project to the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade Committee.

“This is unusual in that the town is doing it versus a Chamber of Commerce,” Graviet said as discussions of the project resumed Tuesday. “This will generate revenue, and we’re not in the revenue-generating business. We provide services.”

Graviet said that in discussions with Mayor Jack Walsh, who heads the committee, they had considered the town making donation to a charitable organization of any funds raised through the advertising-supported map.

The organization that first came to mind was the standalone committee responsible for organizing the annual Fourth of July parade in the town.

“Most people think it’s part of the town,” Graviet noted.

But, in reality, the committee — headed by resident Phil Rossi — puts on the parade on its own, with support from the town through policing and public works, and a bit of limited financial support joined with that of the public.

Rossi is also supplied with a desk and telephone at the town hall, but he uses that station to help raise funds to put on the parade each year. In recent weeks, the committee the committee has also been selling Fourth of July Parade T-shirts on the boardwalk each evening, as part of those fundraising efforts.

The funds go toward helping to pay for travel and appearance expenses involved in having the various marching units, bands and other entertainment come to Bethany Beach.

But unlike the town’s annual fireworks display, the town doesn’t just pay the entire tab. Graviet said putting the money toward the fireworks had also been discussed, since many from outside the town also enjoy the display each year. But unlike nearby Rehoboth Beach, the town has always paid for the display in full, as a municipality.

Like many local businesses, residents and visitors, though the town does make a donation toward the cause of the annual Bethany Beach Independence Day parade. And costs for putting on the parade have increased over the years. The town will add to that support if they do turn over the map project to the parade committee.

“If the committee is willing to take it on, it seems like a perfect fit,” Graviet said. “It takes us (the town) out of the loop. And the committee is always looking for funding.”

Walsh said he’d already discussed the idea with Rossi and, with the committee’s approval, planned to discuss it in detail with him after June 20 meeting. That meeting happened to coincide with a meeting of the Fourth of July Parade Committee as they revved up for the 2006 parade on Tuesday, July 4.

Rossi said he didn’t have enough information yet to say whether the committee would take on the project, but Walsh described his initial reaction as “receptive.”

If the committee does so, they’ll work with representatives of the Village Profile company to develop a map and gain advertisers to support it. The town will provide Village Profile with a home base and phone, while the committee will take over the administrative end for which the Communications Committee would have otherwise been responsible.

While the project had started out as just a map of Bethany Beach, with support from businesses around the area, Walsh said Village Profile representatives had strongly recommended the town expand their vision to include other towns in the area — a move they said would make it easier to sell ads to a wider geographical range of businesses.

In that case, the town would supply its map information, collected by Kercher Engineering Inc. (KEI) as part of an ongoing town mapping project, and get maps of the other towns from them or the county. Bethany, or the Parade Committee, being the signatories on the contract, would decide the layout of the map.

Committee members also championed some final details of the basic map type on June 20, stating clear preferences for a two-sided, color map, with an additional small tear-away map. The town or towns would get maps to distribute as part of the deal, while businesses advertising through the map would get their own allotments.

The town will also get access to an interactive business map online, possibly replacing the current business map it offers on its Web site, which takes considerable effort each spring to update, committee members note.

“This is an excellent thing to do for the town,” Council and committee member Tony McClenny said.

If the parade committee takes on the project, work would likely begin in August, after the conclusion of work on this year’s parade, and take about seven months. That was the ideal time period established by the committee before the parade committee was even mentioned, adding to the feeling that the shift makes for a perfect fit.

The parade committee has officially filed for its charitable organization status, likely making it easier to raise funds in coming years. And taking over the map project could add to those coffers, ensuring the parade’s future over the long term.

Committee members noted Rossi’s dedication to the parade and his ability to negotiate arrangements to benefit that cause. “This is right up his alley,” Graviet said of Rossi.

On a final positive note, Walsh predicted, “Once this gets going, it will take on a life of its own.”

Also at the June 20 Communications Committee meeting, committee member Faith Denault reported ongoing work in updating a skills inventory of town residents, and committee members finalized Sept. 2 as the planned date of an open house at town hall.

Graviet will oversee organization of the event, designed to allow citizens to visit areas of the building they would otherwise never see, as well as socialize and enjoy refreshments with their neighbors and town officials.