Promoter wants to be in charge of Warner Robins July 4 show

Blue Duck Events could do it better, cheaper, CEO says

mstucka@macon.comJanuary 21, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The city’s Independence Day celebration could go on -- potentially in a way that’s better and cheaper, a promoter told City Council on Tuesday.

Benny Brantley, president and CEO of Blue Duck Events Inc., is asking the city to put his organization in charge of fireworks and entertainment, bringing a revitalized Fourth of July celebration to the city.

Council members hadn’t planned to take action Tuesday and noted the traditional host location -- McConnell-Talbert Stadium -- is controlled by a different organization, the Houston County school board. But the Warner Robins officials seemed interested, and none voiced opposition.

Brantley’s pitch probably didn’t hurt.

“Whereas you paid between $150,000 and $180,000 last year, we’re looking at less than $100,000 to put on the same show,” he said to council members.

Brantley said his connections could get better prices and may also be able to unite members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve band, now deactivated, that had long performed at the celebration. Last year’s organizer, the Civitan Club, reportedly no longer wants to organize the event.

Under the proposal, Blue Duck would arrange for a headliner band such as ELO, Kansas, Collective Soul or The Black Crowes. Blue Duck would also arrange for fireworks, insurance and all the other details. Warner Robins would seek sponsorships through existing partnerships, such as with GEICO and Robins Federal Credit Union, Brantley said.

If enough sponsorship money wasn’t found by April, everyone would get all their money back. Brantley told The Telegraph that “we’ve got to know something in the next two or three weeks. Otherwise sponsors will not be able to afford” rising costs of entertainment.

Department head appeals

The council appeared deeply divided over a proposed policy to strip away an appeals process for department heads who get fired.

Councilman Chuck Shaheen, a former mayor, said if City Council takes away the department heads’ appeal rights, they should be given some sort of severance package.

Councilman Mike Davis suggested the current appeals process was moot because department heads who were fired would ultimately be appealing to the same City Council that agreed to fire them in the first place. Along the way, taxpayers might have to pay $30,000 in salary for an ousted department head.

Public Works Director George Brannen agreed, saying, “If mayor and council want us gone, we’re gone.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, who worked 29 years for the city, said she knew of “very, very few” department heads who’d been dismissed, with most leaving under their own power or retiring.

The proposal to delete the appeals process could be voted on at its next reading.

The council also recognized Isabella Winston, a fourth-grade student at Shirley Hills Elementary School who placed third in the nation in a competition, the NFL Punt Pass and Kick Team Championships. She represented the Falcons for her age group.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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