VALDOSTA -- Lowndes County Commissioners voted Tuesday to contribute funding to the area's MSA Image Campaign, though not at the level sought by campaign leaders.

The Board voted unanimously to contribute up to $30,000 toward the campaign, which is an effort to package and market the new metropolitan area to business and industry.

Under the original proposal, each major local government was to contribute $50,000, as the City of Valdosta did earlier this summer. In earlier discussions, the Board debated the contribution amount, given that the county already contributes funds to some of the other participating groups.

Smaller boards and authorities were asked to contribute $25,000, which the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority and the Valdosta-Lowndes Conference Center and Tourism Authority have done. South Georgia Medical Center is also expected to participate.

The county's contribution is conditioned on resolving a legal issue uncovered by the county attorney.

County Manager Joe Pritchard said the Board wanted to resolve an issue over the means of terminating the contract between the campaign and McRae Communications, the firm retained the handle the promotional blitz.

Under the proposed agreement, either side can terminate the agreement by giving 60 days notice. However, because the local campaign consists of five different groups, it is not clear how local participants would terminate the agreement.

At a recent meeting of the MSA Image Committee, stakeholders voted to split the project into two parts: a research phase and an implementation phase. Once research is complete, the committee will have the option to choose all, part or none of the options presented by McRae.

"I feel this is a great benefit to the process," Committee Chairperson Evelyn Langdale wrote in a memorandum to stakeholders. "It allows us greater flexibility to craft a campaign based on the findings of the research."

The county's $30,000 share will come from contingency monies, leaving the county with approximately $400,000 in the fund, Pritchard said.

To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.

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