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City split over video production

June 15, 2011
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - "As my boss always says, everything we do is economic development, from streets to infrastructure," assistant city administrator Mike Humpal told Fairmont City Council this week.

But Mayor Randy Quiring wants to do more.

This week, Quiring asked the City Council to consider spending $19,800 for a five-minute feature about Fairmont during the "Profiles with Terry Bradshow" program on the Travel Channel.

The feature also would be broadcast 19 times in the region, through a combination of CNN Headline News and ION Broadcast stations. For the cost of the production, the city would have licensing rights to use the video.

A contract was included in the council's agenda this week. Once the agreement is signed, the production company still would have to decide if Fairmont is a good fit for the show, Quiring said.

"For economic development it's pretty expensive, but to have that professional piece we can use as we want - it's just one part of a plan I have," said Quiring, who liked the idea of being able to use the video to showcase Fairmont, especially with a recognizable voice like Terry Bradshaw's as the narrator.

Councilman Joe Kallemeyn was equally impressed with the idea: "As the mayor was just saying, when it comes to economic development, this puts a couple more bullets in the gun."

Councilman Andy Lucas also thought it was worth the risk as a way to get Fairmont's name broadcast nationally, but not everyone on the council was as eager to jump on board.

"How long have they been doing this?" asked Councilman Wes Clerc. "I watch a lot of Headline News and I haven't seen it."

City staff was even more leery.

"This is a little difficult for me because it's not something I generally do to disagree with you all," said city administrator Jim Zarling, who voiced several concerns about what he described as a "significant investment."

The mayor said he just wanted to see if the council was willing to take the first step - signing the agreement - to see if Fairmont was eligible to appear on the Bradshaw program.

But Zarling said he had not "found anyone they've turned down once they signed on for this" - a statement the mayor strongly questioned.

"Once the city signs it, you've agreed to pay," the city administrator said.

"Not if they don't sign it," Quiring countered.

"But that's their choice, not ours," Zarling said.

Siding with his boss was Humpal, using a diplomatic approach: "I agree highly professional video productions are nice. It's true it will be ours and we'll own it, but videos become outdated very quickly.

Ideally - due to changes in hair, clothing and cars - videos are replaced every couple years in order to be effective economic development tools, Humpal warned, which makes the Bradshaw production an expensive investment.

"This is a five-minute infomercial ... Terry Bradshaw is selling filler space," Humpal said, explaining that the five-minute clip would be shown once on "Profiles with Terry Bradshaw" and then sold to different networks that need to fill airtime.

"Keep in mind," Humpal said, "all of you have been willing to spend money when we need to get a project done. ... I want to spend your $20,000 with the biggest bang for your buck. ... And I'm open to ideas. I don't mean to say one is bad and one is good."

The city's attorney, Libby Bloomquist, voiced her own concerns from a legal standpoint, beginning with the absence of the production's name and address on the contract. She also noticed if a disagreement develops between the production and the city, the contract requires the disagreement to be resolved in Florida.

"I'd like to check in with other cities too," Bloomquist said.

From what she found on the Internet, she credited the production for having a well-organized marketing plan, but she couldn't find much feedback from anyone who was impressed with the show.

Paul Hoye, financial director, also reminded the council about the promotional video services on its Web site. A company that sells ad space on the city's Web site filmed several short videos for "Fairmont Video TourBook" for The company is under contract to upgrade the videos regularly at the city's request.

"It's not the quality we've been talking about, but ... it's an option. And they would do it for free," Hoye said.

The council agreed to postpone a decision, giving the city a couple of weeks to research the Bradshaw program and other options.

"Keep this in mind," Quiring said. "I just want to look outside the box."



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